Robert Barnes, writing at the Washington Post, published an early review of the performance of Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch (six words which I swear to you I will never get tired of writing) this week. As with many reviews from the WaPo of people or ideas which lean in a conservative direction, one almost detects a hint of criticism, or at least disappointment hiding under the covers. (Or perhaps I just look for that in anything under the WaPo banner.) But for the most part it at least hits the high points and draws several valid conclusions, including quotes and critiques from people on both sides of the aisle. Let’s take a look.
On Day 78 of his lifetime appointment, the Supreme Court’s newest justice, Neil M. Gorsuch, revealed himself Monday to be:
● Skeptical about the reach of the court’s two-year-old decision granting same-sex couples the right to marry.
●Further to the right than almost all of his colleagues on gun rights.
●Unwilling to lend his full support to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s opinion in a major separation-of-church-and-state case, because of disagreement over a two-sentence footnote.
While it’s not a direction I would take personally, I can assure you that a lot of people who voted for Trump primarily, if not entirely for the purpose of having him select the next member of the highest court in the land rather than Hillary Clinton, were not at all bothered by his apparent take on gay marriage. If he’s “further to the right” than most of the court on Second Amendment rights, the aforementioned voters are currently popping open champagne bottles. And if anyone is bothered by the fact that he would strike out with his own thoughts when he disagrees with another justice’s footnotes, they should probably go back to watching Dancing With the Stars. We want justices who think independently and inject their own opinions into the debate. We don’t need sheep. And I say that even for the ones who I almost always disagree with.
Barnes goes on to describe Gorsuch as, “Scalia 2.0, perhaps further to the right.” All I can say to that is it’s praise of the highest order, no matter how you might have intended it.
What else do we have?
Gorsuch has proved himself to be a self-assured jurist unafraid of the big stage. He asked 22 questions at his first oral argument. He writes frequently — and well, as even his critics acknowledge — and has been willing to go it alone in providing his own reasoning in an opinion even when he agrees.
“He’s asserted himself in a way that is really without precedent for a justice in the modern court,” said Ian Samuel, a former Scalia clerk who teaches at Harvard Law School.
I’m not seeing how that’s a bad thing, no matter how the comment was intended. Sounds to me like he was prepared for the job on day one. Perhaps he was… shovel ready?
Much of the rest deals with incidents where Gorsuch was seen to be sparring with some of the other members in his writing, most notably Chief Justice Roberts and the Notorious RBG. But it seems to be universally accepted thus far that his disagreements are professional and well written, if perhaps unnecessary in the eyes of the peanut gallery. All in all a sterling review of a new conservative voice on the court as far as I’m concerned.
God willing, Neil Gorsuch will be on the court for a long time to come. He will inevitably make some decisions I disagree with and others I shall applaud. But what we’re seeing thus far is impressive across the board. Masterful writing and a keen mind, unafraid to lay down a marker on any issue where he feels it appropriate to do so.
Now we just need a few more like him…