Justice Neil Gorsuch
Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the U.S. Supreme Court on April 10, 2017, replacing Justice Antonin Scalia. Gorsuch was born in Colorado on August 29, 1967. However, his family moved to an area of Maryland near Washington, D.C. when his mother was appointed as the administrator of the federal Environmental Protection Agency. After graduating from Georgetown Preparatory School in 1985, Gorsuch attended Columbia University. He graduated cum laude from Columbia in 1988, majoring in political science. Gorsuch received his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1991, again graduating cum laude. He would later receive a doctorate in law from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom as well.
After graduating from law school, Gorsuch held two federal court clerkships. He clerked at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 1991-1992, and he clerked for Justices Anthony Kennedy and Byron White at the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993-1994. (He ultimately would serve on the Court with both Kennedy and fellow clerk Brett Kavanaugh.) Gorsuch then practiced law at a private firm until 2005, when he joined the U.S. Department of Justice as Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General. In May 2006, President George W. Bush nominated Gorsuch to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. The Senate confirmed him unanimously in July. Gorsuch wrote over 200 opinions for the Tenth Circuit during the next decade.
Republican President Donald Trump nominated Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court on February 1, 2017, just 12 days after Trump took office. The seat to which Gorsuch was nominated had been vacant for almost a year after the death of Justice Scalia. Democrat President Barack Obama had sought to replace Scalia with D.C. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland, but the U.S. Senate refused to consider Garland’s nomination due to the impending 2016 presidential election.
Gorsuch began his confirmation hearings on March 20, 2017, and the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-9 in his favor on April 3. When Democrats in the Senate sought to block his confirmation via filibuster, the Republican majority in the chamber voted to change Senate rules so that filibusters of Supreme Court nominations could be broken with a simple majority. Gorsuch was then confirmed by a 54-45 vote on April 7 and received his commission on the following day. He took the constitutional oath of office and the judicial oath of office on April 10 in separate ceremonies.
Echoing his predecessor Scalia, Gorsuch follows the textualist theory of legal interpretation. This essentially holds that laws should be interpreted according to the ordinary meaning of their words, rather than the context surrounding them. Again like Scalia, Gorsuch adheres to the originalist view of Constitutional interpretation. This means that a provision in the founding document should be given the meaning that it would have had when it took effect.
Although Gorsuch belongs to the conservative bloc on the Court, he repeatedly has joined the liberal Justices in support of Native American rights. In McGirt v. Oklahoma, for example, Gorsuch held that land promised to a tribe by the U.S. government remained an Indian reservation for the purposes of federal criminal law.
Selected Opinions by Justice Gorsuch:Bucklew v. Precythe (2019)
Topic: Death Penalty & Criminal Sentencing
To establish that a state’s chosen method cruelly “superadds” pain to the death sentence, a prisoner must show a feasible and readily implemented alternative method that would significantly reduce a substantial risk of severe pain and that the state has refused to adopt without a legitimate penological reason.
Ramos v. Louisiana (2020)
Topic: Criminal Trials
The Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial, incorporated against the states by the Fourteenth Amendment, requires a unanimous verdict to convict a defendant of a serious offense.
Bostock v. Clayton County (2020)
Topic: Labor & Employment; LGBTQ Rights
An employer that fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII.
Romag Fasteners, Inc. v. Fossil, Inc. (2020)
A plaintiff in a trademark infringement lawsuit is not required to show that a defendant willfully infringed the plaintiff’s trademark as a precondition to a profits award.
NCAA v. Alston (2021)
The NCAA is not immune from the Sherman Act because its restrictions happen to fall at the intersection of higher education, sports, and money.
Pereida v. Wilkinson (2021)
Topic: Immigration & National Security
A non-permanent resident seeking to cancel a lawful removal order has not met the burden of showing that they have not been convicted of a disqualifying offense when the record shows that they have been convicted under a statute listing multiple offenses, some of which are disqualifying, and the record is ambiguous as to which crime formed the basis of the conviction.
Kennedy v. Bremerton School District (2022)
The Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses protect an individual engaging in a personal religious observance from government reprisal. The Constitution neither mandates nor permits the government to suppress such religious expression.