If nothing else, Neil Gorsuch has demonstrated that he knows how to prepare for a case. Anticipating attacks from Senate Democrats on his judicial record as skewed against the “little guy,” the Supreme Court nominee rebutted the argument almost before ranking Judiciary Committee member Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) got it out of her mouth. “I’m just looking for something that would indicate that you would give a worker a fair shot,” Feinstein remarked, “maybe something in your background that I don’t know about.”
Feinstein then got a lesson in what she doesn’t know about Neil Gorsuch:
GORSUCH: Senator, I know a case or two has been mentioned yesterday. Respectfully, I’d suggest that does not represent the body of my work. I’ve written two thousand — I’ve participate in 2,700 opinions over ten and a half years. And if you want cases where I’ve ruled for “the little guy,” as well as “the big guy,” there are plenty of those, Senator. The Ute Indian tribe —
FEINSTEIN: Would you be willing to submit some of them? It’s hard to read 2,700 cases — [crosstalk]
GORSUCH: Oh, I’ll name a bunch them right now. [crosstalk] I’m sorry, Senator, of course. Ute 5 and 6. Fletcher. The Rocky Flats case, which vindicated the rights of people who had been subject to pollution from large companies in Colorado — uranium pollution. I’d point you to the Magnesium case, similar pollution case in the Salt Lake City area. Colorado’s effort with renewable energy; upheld that. Orr v City of Albuquerque, involving pregnancy discrimination in a police department in Albuquerque. WD Sports, a discrimination claim. Casey, Energy West, Crane, Simpson v CU, involving young women who had been harassed by the football team. AM, Browder, Sutton — I can give you a long, long list.
By this time, Feinstein was clearly embarrassed, but Gorsuch wasn’t finished,:
FEINSTEIN: That’s wonderful. We’ll find them, and we’ll read them.
GORSUCH: And Senator, the bottom line, I think is, is I’d like to convey to you from the bottom of my heart is that I’m a fair judge. And I think if you ask people in the Tenth Circuit, “Is he a fair judge?”, you’re going to get the answer that you got yesterday from both Senator Bennet and Senator Gardener and from General Katyal, and the same answer you got from Senator Allard and Senator Salazar ten years ago. And Senator, I can’t guarantee you more than that — but I can promise you absolutely nothing less.
Clearly, it’s been a very long time since Feinstein has practiced law [see update below]. The first rule in cross-examination is not to ask questions to which the answer is unknown. This isn’t a trial (well, not formally anyway), but even as a politician one has to wonder what she thought she was accomplishing with that question. Not only did she make herself look ignorant on Gorsuch’s track record after having almost two months to prepare for this hearing, Feinstein offered up a gilt-edged invitation to Gorsuch to undermine Senate Democrats’ best populist and class-warfare argument against him. In addition, Gorsuch managed to answer the allegation yesterday about hostility toward women by citing Orr and Simpson.
Perhaps Senate Democrats should just hang it up now before Gorsuch embarrasses them again with their thin preparation and intellectually dishonest attacks on his character. And perhaps a few of them might want to nudge Feinstein toward retirement after seeing this spectacular faceplant.
Update: Feinstein has never practiced law, and does not have a law degree. She did serve on the parole board in California prior to her electoral career. That explains why she might not understand the nuances of cross-examination, but still ….