Everything You Need to Know about Your Newest Supreme Court Justice, Neil Gorsuch

April 7, 2017

Meet your newest United States Supreme Court Justice, Neil Gorsuch. He was nominated to fill the spot of Justice Antonin Scalia, who passed away in February 2016.

Name: Neil Gorsuch Neil Gorsuch

Born: August 29, 1967 in Colorado

Background:  The oldest child of two lawyers. His mother was the first woman to run the EPA.

He and his wife, Louise, have two daughters and reside in Boulder County, Colorado, where they raise horses, chickens and goats.

Gorsuch is a big outdoorsman and loves skiing, fishing and hunting.

Education: Columbia University; Harvard Law School; Oxford University

Career: Started his law career as a clerk for a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. Then spent another year clerking for Supreme Court Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Byron R. White.

Following his clerkships in 1995, he worked at a D.C. law firm where he later became partner. He specialized in complex litigation in fields such as antitrust, telecommunications and securities fraud.

In 2004, Gorsuch completed his education with a doctorate in legal philosophy from Oxford University.

In 2005, he worked at the U.S. Department of Justice as principal deputy to the associate attorney general, helping oversee areas related to constitutional law, civil rights and environmental regulation.

In 2006 Gorsuch began his career at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, in Denver.

What’d He Do Before He Was Nominated?: He was serving as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit before he was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Donald Trump in January 2017.

Any Notable Cases?:  Remember the case involving Hobby Lobby back in 2013? It made headlines for the craft store’s fight against the mandated contraception coverage of the Affordable Care Act. Judge Gorsuch ruled in Hobby Lobby’s favor, showing a strong siding with religious freedom.

In a ruling in August 2016, in an immigration case, Gorsuch showed opposition to power give to federal regulators over courts, when he argued that the meaning of the law is for judges to decide, not federal bureaucrats.

Why Republicans Like Him:  Gorsuch was viewed as a conservative voice at Columbia University and Harvard Law School. While working at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, Gorsuch established himself as an originalist and supporter of religious freedom in his opinions. These are ideals that align well with conservative values. His values are said to “eerily” align with those of Justice Scalia’s.

Why Democrats Don’t Like Him: Mainly for political reasons, not necessarily for much else. To understand this, you have to remember the position Gorsuch in which finds himself. Gorsuch was nominated on the heels of a year-long deadlock, where Senate Republicans had refused to even allow a hearing for Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. Because of this, Gorsuch was expected to face a bitter battle for his confirmation. And it was definitely bitter. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer fought the nomination the whole way and filibustered the nominee from even going to a vote. This hasn’t happened in decades.

Was it Easy to Get Him Elected to the Supreme Court?: Not even close.

Senate Democrats have fought this nomination tooth and nail to block Gorsuch from getting confirmed. Thursday morning marked the first successful filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee in nearly five decades. FIVE DECADES!

This is a perfect illustration over how political the two parties have become. It used to be that unless there was something seriously wrong, you approved Supreme Court nominees without question. For instance, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was confirmed by a 96 to 3 vote. This was a few decades ago, of course, but you see how far things have come.

The Republicans had to use something called, “the Nuclear Option,” (a complicated issue, but it’s essentially a way to bypass the Democrats filibuster so they could approve his nomination) to get his confirmation to the highest court in the land. It was viewed as an historic, dangerous move. Experts say the nuclear option would drastically weaken the minority rights in the Senate, which are intended to protect Americans against the unchecked power of the majority party. Basically, the Senate is viewed as the moderator for the strongly partisan House of Representatives. But with this Nuclear Option issued, it could change the dynamics and no longer allow the minority party to have much say, if any, at all. Not good.

Both parties agreed there are dangers to using this option with Sen. John McCain stating, “Now that we are entering into an era where a simple majority decides all judicial nominations, we will see more and more nominees from the extremes of both the left and the right. I do not see how that will ensure a fair and impartial judiciary. In fact, I think the opposite will be true and Americans will no longer be confident of equal protection under the law.”

For Kids

Justice Gorsuch’s nomination makes him the country’s 113th elected Supreme Court Justice. The last one, Elena Kagen, was confirmed in 2010. Unlike other elected officials in the country, Supreme Court Justice’s can serve for life.

At age 49, Gorsuch’s appointment makes him among the youngest of recent Supreme Court nominees (Justice Clarence Thomas was 43 when nominated, and Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Elena Kagan were both 50 when nominated.).

Do you know how much money Supreme Court Justices make? Justices earn pretty decent salaries, though they could make much more in the private sector, so essentially they’re taking a pay cut to be on the Supreme Court (their retirement benefits try to make up for that though). As chief justice, John Roberts earns $223,500 per year, while the other associate justices make $213,900.

Their salary is for life though–with a few stipulations. As long as they have served for at least 10 years on the Supreme Court and the years they have served plus their age equals 80, they are eligible to receive that salary every year for the rest of their life. For example, if they are 70-years-old and have served on the Supreme Court for at least 10 years, they are eligible for the pension.

Not too shabby, right?

Sources: Biography.com, SCOTUS blog, and Politico.com.

Author: Andrea

Former news reporter and Capitol Hill press guru, wife, mom, and pastry addict.

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