Supreme Court Justice, Neil Gorsuch has been serving on the Court for nearly 1 year. However, in that short span of time, Trump’s replacement for Antonin Scalia has already started to leave his mark on the legal landscape of the US.
Gorsuch’s style of taking charge was apparent from the start. Last year on his oral argument, he had more questions than his colleagues had.
“It’s a tiny, but telling example of the fact [that] from day one, [Gorsuch] decided, ‘I’m going to do the job my way. No disrespect intended to anyone else, but I’m not going to ease in as if I’m some rookie,’ ” explained Harvard Law professor, Ian Samuel.
“Ideologically, he is what he seems to be, a conservative, textualist, originalist, but he’s approached the job differently,” Samuel continued.
“I’ve known him for over a decade and this is how he’s always been. He’s just a trial lawyer who doesn’t do things halfway,” Jamil Jaffer stated, a clerk for Gorsuch.“ He loves getting into the meat of an argument which, at the end of the day, is what being a good trial lawyer and good judge is all about.”
Gorsuch opened his dissenting opinion by a quote from G.K. Chesterton, a philosophical commentator, and cultural critic who served as inspiration for Narnia writer C.S. Lewis.
“Chesterton reminds us not to clear away a fence just because we cannot see its point. Even if a fence doesn’t seem to have a reason, sometimes all that means is we need to look more carefully for the reason it was built in the first place,” wrote Gorsuch.
Jaffer defended his old boss, saying, “You know they have nothing substantive to talk about when they are taking weak potshots at his writing style,”
“That’s just how Justice Gorsuch writes: He wants to make the law accessible to a lay audience, which is something we ought credit, not criticize. Frankly, it strikes me as some law professors being a bit elitist.”
Tim Meyer, Vanderbilt University Law School’s Professor testified on Gorsuch’s behalf at the time of his confirmation. “I think it’s a breath of fresh air to have someone on the bench who is trying to do something stylistically that’s more accessible,” said Meyer.
Some court-watchers accused Gorsuch of being a dominating personality on the bench.
“If a statute needs repair, there’s a constitutionally prescribed way to do it. It’s called legislation,” wrote Gorsuch in one of his dissent last term.
“He is in his colleagues’ faces pointing out the error of their ways, his snarky tone oozing disrespect toward those who might, just might, know what they are talking about,” stated The New York Times Linda Greenhouse in her opinion piece written in July.
Those who are the supporters of Gorsuch dismissed the feud talk with Ginsburg as unproven speculation.
“Even though obviously, ideologically, those two agree less than most other justices, it’s not a reason to assume that was the person she was referring to,” stated the conservative Judicial Crisis Network’s Carrie Severino, the chief counsel and policy director.
Some of the censure Gorsuch is receiving is due to the situations of his ascent to the bench.
“I’ve been guilty of this, too. I think people are frustrated by his circumstances of joining the court,” Epps said while co-hosting with Samuel, the podcast called “First Mondays”. “I sometimes feel sorry for the guy. He can’t really catch a break.”
“Anything he does that’s a little off or, you know, a misstep in any way gets magnified,” said Epps. “I maybe contributed to this with GorsuchStyle.”
Gorsuch’s social trips have been placed under the microscope.
Gorsuch had dined with some Washington officials and Republican senators at Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn’s (Republican-Texas) house in January. This is a common way to build up their friendships. Critics seized it as an opportunity by raising questions about Gorsuch’s talent to be free from the Republican Party.
“He’s getting so much flak and such little benefit of the doubt it could make him hunker down ideologically,” Epps said. “There’s some theory that’s what has happened with [Justice Clarence] Thomas. … Perhaps he felt very criticized by people on the left and became even more conservative. I worry about that.”