In one of the most important decisions of his presidency, Donald Trump has nominated federal appeals judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Here’s what you need to know about Gorsuch and the role itself.
The previous judge, Justice Antonin Scalia, died last year – but the Republicans refused to consider Barack Obama’s nominee for the seat, saying the choice should go to his successor.
Gorsuch is a federal appeals judge who has served on the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver since 2006, after being appointed by George W Bush.
The Colorado native earned his bachelor’s degree from Columbia University in three years, then a law degree from Harvard and a philosophy degree at Oxford University.
He served for two years in Bush’s Department of Justice, and his mother, Anne Gorsuch Burford, was head of the Environmental Protection Agency in the Reagan administration.
He is known on the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals for advocacy for court review of government regulations, defence of religious freedom and scepticism towards law enforcement.
Gorsuch’s writings outside the court offer insight into his conservative leanings. He lashed out at liberals in a 2005 opinion piece for National Review, written before he became a federal judge.
“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 for effecting their social agenda on everything from gay marriage to assisted suicide to the use of vouchers for private-school education,” he wrote.
Outlining his legal philosophy, Gorsuch said: “It is the rule of judges to apply, not alter, the work of the people’s representatives. A judge who likes every outcome he reaches is very likely a bad judge.”
Hope you like my nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch for the United States Supreme Court. He is a good and brilliant man, respected by all.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 1, 2017
Trump praised Gorsuch for his “extraordinary resume” and said his academic credentials were “as good as I have ever seen”.
Trump said he “has outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, tremendous discipline and has earned bipartisan support” and was “the man our country needs and needs badly to ensure the rule of law and the rule of justice”.
Supreme Court justices play a huge role in shaping America’s legal landscape for decades to come. As the position is for life, Gorsuch’s conservative stance (if confirmed) could have an influence on the country for many years to come.
If approved by the Senate, Gorsuch would take the vacant seat. At 49 years old, Gorsuch would be the youngest justice since Clarence Thomas joined the court in 1991 aged 43.
However, his road to confirmation is not set to be an easy one. Some Democrats have vowed to mount a vigorous challenge to any nominee to what they view as the court’s “stolen seat” after Obama was prevented from making his own choice.
Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer said he has “serious doubts” that Gorsuch is within what Democrats consider the legal mainstream.
Three of the other nine Supreme Court justices are in their late 70s and early 80s, so many Republicans are hoping that an early retirement would give Trump the opportunity to make another selection and cement the conservative dominance of the court for many years.