To be one of nine, a nominee should be an intellectual leader who has shown both a depth and scope of knowledge of the law and its history. Quite frankly, few nominees have been particularly distinguished on this basis. The low moment came with President Nixon’s nomination of Judge G. Harrold Carswell, who was criticized as the “dull graduate of the third best law school in the state of Georgia” and lacked any scholarly articles or significant decisions. Sen. Roman Hruska famously rose to his defense with the declaration that “even if he were mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they, and a little chance?” The answer is, of course, no. The highest court is a place for those who have earned the honor of confirmation through a lifetime of demonstrated and exceptional intellectual achievement.
Gorsuch is the gold standard for a nominee. He is widely respected for his writings on legal theory and history, which include refreshingly provocative ideas on the structure of government, morality in the law and interpretive theory. This is, in other words, a full portfolio of work at the very highest level of analysis.
Confirmation hearings often take on an almost mystical character as members and experts hold forth on what type of justice a nominee will prove to be over the course of a long tenure on the court. It is an exercise that not only defies logic but also can border on the occult. If history is any judge, even the nominee cannot say for certain where his tenure on the court will take him.