What Neil Gorsuch’s Appointment to SCOTUS Could Mean For Policy

Last February, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away at the age of 80. He’d been a justice on the Supreme Court from 1986 until his death.  He was probably best known for his controversial, conservative views- politically and socially.  A self-declared originalist, Scalia believed that it was the Court’s responsibility to adhere to the original intent of the founding fathers when they wrote the Constitution.  He often had to separate his own personal beliefs from his rulings on cases.

After his death, Republicans insisted on waiting for the new President Elect to appoint our new Supreme Court Justice. For 11 months, questions arose as to how cases would reach a decision if the votes were tied (without Scalia, there are only 8 justices on the bench). Now that Trump is in office, he has chosen a few names for his short list, one of which is Neil Gorsuch, the youngest nominee in the past 25 years.  Gorsuch was appointed as an American federal appellate judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in 2006 by George W. Bush.  Much like Scalia, Gorsuch is known for his socially conservative views, but people of different political orientations have been surprised at his ability to analyze a situation from all perspectives.  For example, in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor, he sided with Christian employers and religious organizations, who wanted an exemption from the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act. Despite the conservative nature of this ruling, he sided with the defendant in United States vs. Carlos, stating that police officers violated the Fourth Amendment when they entered a residence with a “no trespassing” sign.

Like the late Justice Scalia, Gorsuch identifies as an originalist, but also as a textualist. As such, he believes that government needs to be strictly limited and that laws should be centered around the Constitution and Bill of Rights, not the intent of the policy maker. This is important.  This means that he intends (and has a history of) keeping his own preferences out of decision making. Already, he is challenging President Trump on stances and decisions he’s made, despite the fact that he is the president’s nominee.  Simply put, he is more likely to question any overreach in power, particularly when it comes to executive orders.

So what does this mean for future policy in our country? Considering the deep political divide in America, Gorsuch is one of the most responsible choices for the vacant spot in SCOTUS. He is likely to reach decisions that will be fair and just for everyone. Of course, not everyone can be pleased all the time, but his track record for sticking to text is impeccable.  He refuses to be boxed under a single label, saying that “People do unexpected things. Pigeonholes ignore gray areas in the law.”  If history can account for anything, I think all parties can allow themselves to breathe a little easier.

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