Neil Gorsuch nominated by Donald Trump to fill supreme court vacancy

Known for his firm conservative views, Gorsuch could tip the court’s balance on hot-button issues such as abortion, voting rights and religious equality

Tom McCarthy / The Guardian / January 31, 2017

 

President Donald Trump has nominated circuit court judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacant seat on the US supreme court, setting up a showdown with congressional Democrats and activists over a pick that could shape the ideological bent of the court for a generation.

Gorsuch, 49, the youngest supreme court nominee in 25 years, was among a group of federal judges reported in recent weeks to be on Trump’s shortlist. A strict adherent of judicial restraint known for sharply-written opinions and bedrock conservative views, Gorsuch, a Colorado native, is popular among his peers and is seen as having strong backing among Republicans generally.

The nomination landed at a moment of sharply-increasing alarm that the Trump administration plans to pursue extremist policies on core questions likely to come before the court, from religious equality to abortion rights to campaign finance, voting rights, access to healthcare, marriage equality, anti-discrimination protections and more.

Announcing his pick in the White House’s East Room, Trump described reading Gorsuch’s writings “closely”, as Gorsuch stood next to Trump listening with a fixed expression of earnest concern, holding his wife, Louise, in one arm.

“His academic credentials … are as good as I have ever seen,” Trump said.

Trump’s nominee has the potential to tip the court one way or the other on those questions. If confirmed, Gorsuch would return the court to nine justices, filling a seat left vacant since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016.

Working for the last year with an even number of justices, the court issued split 4-4 decisions on high-stakes questions such as the protection of undocumented immigrants and the health of public unions, leaving lower court rulings in place.

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The next justice to be confirmed may break such ties, giving new strength to the court’s conservative bloc, which could be further buttressed by future Trump nominations in the case of the retirement or death of a justice. One of the four liberal-leaning justices on the court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, turns 84 in March. Justice Anthony Kennedy, a centrist on the court who has sometimes split tie votes for the progressive wing, is 80 years old.