President Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to fill the Supreme Court vacancy during a prime-time announcement Tuesday.
Gorsuch, a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals judge, emerged as a top contender from Trump’s short lists in the final weeks before Trump made his pick public.
An appointee of President George W. Bush, Gorsuch is a 49-year-old Harvard Law graduate who has developed a reputation as an “incisive legal writer” with a “flair” reminiscent of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, whose seat he will look to fill.
Gorsuch said he thought a crucial component of Scalia’s legacy was to call attention to the differences between legislators and judges, in a lecture on Scalia’s legacy at Case Western University last year.
“Perhaps the great project of Justice Scalia’s career was to remind us of the differences between judges and legislators; to remind us that legislators may appeal to their own moral convictions and to claims about social utility to reshape the law as they think it should be in the future, but that judges should do none of these things in a democratic society,” Gorsuch said. “That judges should instead strive, if humanly and so imperfectly, to apply the law as it is, focusing backward, not forward, and looking to text, structure and history to decide what a reasonable reader at the time of the events in question would have understood the law to be— not to decide cases based on their own moral convictions or the policy consequences they believe might serve society best.
“It seems to me there can be little doubt about the success of this great project. We live in an age when the job of the federal judge is not so much to expound upon the common law as it is to interpret texts — whether constitutional, statutory, regulatory or contractual.”
Gorsuch’s opinion urging reconsideration of the Chevron doctrine likely will attract attention as the president’s interaction with Gorsuch is set to take center stage.
In Chevron U.S.A. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, the Supreme Court decided that courts should defer to executive agency interpretations of certain statutes unless they are deemed unreasonable. Gorsuch’s concurring opinion in Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch noted that the ruling permitted “executive bureaucracies to swallow huge amounts of core judicial and legislative power and concentrate federal power in a way that seems more than a little difficult to square with the Constitution of the framers’ design.”
Time will tell if the high court heeds Gorsuch’s plea and tackles Chevron head on.