Well, SCOTUS watch kicked off on CBS This Morning Saturday, with Jan Crawford saying that her sources are telling her that a leading candidate has emerged from President Trump’s solid list of judicial candidates to fill the vacancy left by the late Justice Antonin Scalia: Judge Neil Gorsuch of the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.
Gorsuch is a Bush 43 appointee—and appears to be a worthy successor to Scalia (via SCOTUSblog)
He was a Marshall Scholar at the University of Oxford, graduated from Harvard Law School, clerked for prominent conservative judges (Judge David Sentelle of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, as well as Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy of the Supreme Court), and was a high-ranking official in the Bush Justice Department before his judicial appointment. He is celebrated as a keen legal thinker and a particularly incisive legal writer, with a flair that matches— or at least evokes — that of the justice whose seat he would be nominated to fill. In fact, one study has identified him as the most natural successor to Justice Antonin Scalia on the Trump shortlist, both in terms of his judicial style and his substantive approach.
With perhaps one notable area of disagreement, Judge Gorsuch’s prominent decisions bear the comparison out. For one thing, the great compliment that Gorsuch’s legal writing is in a class with Scalia’s is deserved: Gorsuch’s opinions are exceptionally clear and routinely entertaining; he is an unusual pleasure to read, and it is always plain exactly what he thinks and why. Like Scalia, Gorsuch also seems to have a set of judicial/ideological commitments apart from his personal policy preferences that drive his decision-making. He is an ardent textualist (like Scalia); he believes criminal laws should be clear and interpreted in favor of defendants even if that hurts government prosecutions (like Scalia); he is skeptical of efforts to purge religious expression from public spaces (like Scalia); he is highly dubious of legislative history (like Scalia); and he is less than enamored of the dormant commerce clause (like Scalia). In fact, some of the parallels can be downright eerie.
Gorsuch seems to be a solid conservative pick, with academic credentials that are impeccable as well. He’s also young at 49 years of age (via Denver Post):
“He has a clear record of a consistent judicial philosophy and applying that in action,” said Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director for the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative advocacy group. “One of the real values here is he’s someone with solid record and we’re able to assess his experience. Conservatives are still concerned about the ‘David Souter effect.’ ”
For conservatives such as John Malcolm, director of the Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at the Heritage Foundation, Gorsuch meets conservative standards as an originalist and a textualist — someone who interprets the Constitution and statutes as they were originally written.
David Lat, managing editor of the legal website Above the Law, points to Gorsuch’s stellar academic pedigree and national connections, but also to his age — 49 and primed for an extended run — as reasons to consider him among the favorites for the nomination.
The other thing to remember,” Lat said, “is that Donald Trump, when he issued his list, thanked the Heritage Foundation and Federalist Society for their input. I don’t think they would have given their stamp of approval to somebody they thought was going to be another Souter. I think that since Souter, presidents are getting better at picking justices who don’t disappoint them.”
Crawford did note that this pick might surprise some conservatives since many were banking on him nominating Judge William Pryor of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. He also served as Alabama’s attorney general. Like Gorsuch, he’s also young (he's only 54). She added that he’s also seen as “the most worthy successor” to Justice Scalia.