What a treasure our Constitution is and how easy to take for granted. In a world facing accelerating change and division, it’s a gift to have an anchor that keeps our freedoms secure. Abraham Lincoln knew the value of that anchor when he said, “Don't interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties.”
In our recent divisive election, the issue of who would appoint what could be as many as three Supreme Court appointments during the next Presidential term was a major factor in the votes of many citizens on both sides of our divide. Elections do matter, and President Trump has nominated Neil Gorsuch to fill Judge Scalia’s vacancy on the Supreme Court.
In what some are describing as a modern-day civil war, this appointment promises to produce a major battle between the right and the left in the Senate. With the reluctance of the Senate to even hold hearings on Merrick Garland, President Obama’s appointment to replace Judge Scalia, the Democrats feel wronged and are threatening to filibuster Trump’s appointment. Some Democrats facing mid-term elections in states that Trump carried in November, are promising to join Republicans to break any filibuster. But there is no doubt that this Supreme Court appointment is guaranteed to be lightning rod that will unleash intense fireworks.
With the speed of President’s Trump’s executive actions and Republican control of both houses of Congress, there are sure to be forced Constitutional tests on controversial laws and executive orders. Politicians and protestors alike are calling Trump a tyrant and vowing to fight his “unconstitutional” actions. As always, these important fights may ultimately come to the U.S. Supreme Court for resolution.
Without a replacement for the conservative judge Scalia, the Supreme Court has been left with a 4-4 ideological split that has resulted in lower court rulings being upheld because of the loss of the 9th deciding vote. With many liberal circuit courts, there’s been no conservative check to secure our Constitutional solid ground. That’s why the approval of Judge Gorsuch is so critical to Trump and the GOP. But what do we know about this judge?
He has a strong judicial resume. He was approved by a unanimous voice vote in the Senate to serve on the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Like Antonin Scalia, one of his mentors, Judge Gorsuch is a proponent of originalism which means that judges should attempt to interpret the words of the Constitution as they were understood at the time they were written. He’s also a textualist who considers only the words of the law being reviewed.
Judge Gorsuch has affirmed that judges should use “text, structure and history” to understand what the law is, “not to decide cases based on their own moral convictions or the policy consequences they believe might serve society best.” His question remains, “Is this law true to the Constitution?”
Gorsuch is critical of activist jurists. He wrote. “American liberals have become addicted to the courtroom, relying on judges and lawyers rather than elected leaders and the ballot box, as the primary means of effecting their social agenda on everything from gay marriage to assisted suicide to the use of vouchers for private-school education. This overweening addiction to the courtroom as the place to debate social policy is bad for the country and bad for the judiciary.”
The Constitution can be changed, but changing the Constitution is not and should not be easy. Changes must be sold, challenged, and approved slowly. True solid ground should never be allowed to be shifting sand.
In comments two months after Justice Scalia died, Judge Gorsuch spoke of his approach as a judge, “If you’re going to be a good and faithful judge, you have to resign yourself to the fact that you’re not always going to like the conclusions you reach. If you like them all the time, you’re probably doing something wrong.”
Albert Einstein became a US Citizen in 1940, and he was bold in his charge to his fellow citizens: “The strength of the Constitution lies entirely in the determination of each citizen to defend it. Only if every single citizen feels duty bound to do his share in this defense are the constitutional rights secure.”
With his strong judicial track record and originalist values, Judge Neil Gorsuch will be one Supreme Court Judge who will protect our Constitution with the last fiber of his body. May it be so.