by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Georgetown law professor Neal Katyal, who was acting solicitor general during the Obama administration, tells New York Times readers “Why Liberals Should Back Neal Gorsuch.”
There is a very difficult question about whether there should be a vote on President Trump’s nominee at all, given the Republican Senate’s history-breaking record of obstruction on Judge Merrick B. Garland — perhaps the most qualified nominee ever for the high court. But if the Senate is to confirm anyone, Judge Gorsuch, who sits on the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver, should be at the top of the list.
I believe this, even though we come from different sides of the political spectrum. I was an acting solicitor general for President Barack Obama; Judge Gorsuch has strong conservative bona fides and was appointed to the 10th Circuit by President George W. Bush. But I have seen him up close and in action, both in court and on the Federal Appellate Rules Committee (where both of us serve); he brings a sense of fairness and decency to the job, and a temperament that suits the nation’s highest court. …
… I have no doubt that if confirmed, Judge Gorsuch would help to restore confidence in the rule of law. His years on the bench reveal a commitment to judicial independence — a record that should give the American people confidence that he will not compromise principle to favor the president who appointed him. Judge Gorsuch’s record suggests that he would follow in the tradition of Justice Elena Kagan, who voted against President Obama when she felt a part of the Affordable Care Act went too far. In particular, he has written opinions vigorously defending the paramount duty of the courts to say what the law is, without deferring to the executive branch’s interpretations of federal statutes, including our immigration laws.
In a pair of immigration cases, De Niz Robles v. Lynch and Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch, Judge Gorsuch ruled against attempts by the government to retroactively interpret the law to disfavor immigrants. In a separate opinion in Gutierrez-Brizuela, he criticized the legal doctrine that federal courts must often defer to the executive branch’s interpretations of federal law, warning that such deference threatens the separation of powers designed by the framers. When judges defer to the executive about the law’s meaning, he wrote, they “are not fulfilling their duty to interpret the law.” In strong terms, Judge Gorsuch called that a “problem for the judiciary” and “a problem for the people whose liberties may now be impaired” by “an avowedly politicized administrative agent seeking to pursue whatever policy whim may rule the day.” That reflects a deep conviction about the role of the judiciary in preserving the rule of law.
That conviction will serve the court and the country well.
Gorsuch also seems to realize that originalism is not a “weird affliction.”