February 1, 2017


Ignore the attacks on Neil Gorsuch. He's an intellectual giant -- and a good man. (Robert P. George February 1, 2017, Washington Post)

[T]ne respect in which Gorsuch is unlike Justice Scalia is that he is not fiery or pugnacious. Rather, his demeanor is scholarly--one might even say bookish. He is not a fierce debater. I recall being with him at an academic conference at which a graduate student contradicted and challenged a comment he had made. Far from bristling or even returning fire, he encouraged the student to develop her argument further, graciously acknowledging merit in the point she had made.

Likewise in the courtroom, he does not interrogate, much less intimidate, the lawyers who appear before him. It is truer to say that he engages them in conversations that enable him to explore the strengths and weaknesses of arguments advanced in their written briefs or address issues he thinks are important but which did not receive sufficient attention in those submissions.

Of course, most people are interested above all in how he is likely to vote on hot button issues such as abortion, marriage, gun control, campaign finance and religious freedom. In the confirmation hearings, he will no doubt do what another friend of mine, Elena Kagan, did and basically refuse to discuss these issues on the ground that they are likely to come before him. I expect what just about everyone else expects: Gorsuch, who greatly admired Scalia, thinks about the constitutional issues in these areas pretty much the same way Scalia did.

Orthodox conservatives believe that the Constitution should be interpreted in a way that is faithful to the text and guided, where the text is less than perfectly clear in its application to a question, by the original understanding of its framers and ratifiers. Gorsuch, like Scalia -- and like every other judge who was on President Trump's list of twenty-one -- is a textualist and an originalist. But he is not dogmatic, and his credentials help explain why.

After studying at Columbia University and Harvard Law School, Gorsuch acquired a doctorate from Oxford University, where he was supervised by the internationally acclaimed philosopher of law and theorist of natural law and natural rights John Finnis. He won both a Truman Scholarship and a Marshall Scholarship, two of the most prestigious scholarships in American higher education. After completing his education, Gorsuch clerked for Court of Appeals Judge David Sentelle then for Supreme Court Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy. He spent a year in the Department of Justice and then a decade in the private practice of law with a distinguished firm. He has served on the 10th Circuit since 2006. His record bespeaks intellect and perseverance -- though Gorsuch is, nonetheless, remarkably approachable.

If Democrats are looking for a point of vulnerability in either Gorsuch's integrity or impartiality, they won't find it. He is basically a Boy Scout. He's a faithful husband, a good father, a caring neighbor, a generous friend, a man of probity who holds himself to the highest ethical standards. Oh, and he will bring religious diversity to a Court that is currently entirely Catholic and Jewish: He's an Episcopalian.

One of the main reasons that Scalia was and Clarence Thomas is so useless on the Court is that the most important role of a justice is not to demonstrate how uniquely bright he is but to craft a majority for his view.  That collegiality is what made Justice Roberts such a great pick as Chief and why Harriet Miers was preferable to Sam Alito as well.
Posted by at February 1, 2017 8:30 AM