It’s becoming more apparent to anyone paying attention to U.S. Supreme Court proceedings that Neil Gorsuch is punching way above his weight class.
On Monday, Justice Gorsuch — whose confirmation was narrowly forced through the U.S. Senate only after Republicans nuked the Supreme Court filibuster — took the bench for the first time, and immediately demonstrated a lack of understanding of the law. As NPR reported, the court looked at three separate cases dealing with complexities of the law that Gorsuch didn’t seem to fully grasp.
“Wouldn’t it be a lot easier if we just follow the text of the statute?” Gorsuch asked, while discussing a case on which courts should hear discrimination claims made by federal government employees.
However, that particular case dealt with conflicting statutes that justices had to interpret around each other to discern which statutes’ language was most appropriate. Even arch-conservative justice Samuel Alito, who is arguably the most conservative judge on the bench next to Gorsuch, seemed exasperated explaining to the rookie justice that no, this wasn’t as simple as he made it out to be.
“This is unbelievably complicated,” Alito told Gorsuch. “The one thing about this case that seems perfectly clear to me is that nobody who’s not a lawyer — and no ordinary lawyer — could read these statutes and figure out what they are supposed to do.”
In a later exchange in which Gorsuch was bantering with one of the lawyers present, Gorsuch responded to a question about whether or not the court was going to establish new precedent in a joking manner, saying the court would just “continue to make it up” instead.
“This would be kind of a revolution — I mean, to the extent you can have a revolution in this kind of case,” Justice Elena Kagan said in response to Gorsuch, as the other justices laughed at his expense.
Gorsuch’s lack of awareness about the role of a judge in interpreting multiple statutes at once is just one more example that Democrats’ arguments against confirming him based on his judicial experience were sound. During his confirmation hearings, Gorsuch notably refrained from directly answering most senators’ questions about case law.
At one point, when Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) asked Gorsuch about his decision to rule in favor of a trucking company in the TransAm Trucking v. Administrative Review Board case, in which an employee was fired for not remaining in his broken-down, stranded rig in the dead of winter with no heat, Gorsuch only responded by saying, “Senator, all I can tell you is my job is to apply the law you write.” Gorsuch was also outed for plagiarizing a book he wrote.
Tom Cahill is a writer for the Resistance Report based in the Pacific northwest. He specializes in coverage of political, economic, and environmental news. You can contact him via email at [email protected], or follow him on Facebook.