On April 7 in Washington D.C., Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s controversial pick for the Supreme Court, was confirmed, which raised concerns for the wellbeing of groups such as immigrants and women. Gorsuch’s appointment was pushed through the Senate despite much opposition from Democrats, who didn’t feel it was fair after Merrick Garland, former president Obama’s nomination, was prevented from becoming the new justice by conservative Congress members. Gorsuch will serve as the replacement for previous justice Antonin Scalia, who, like Gorsuch, was a self-proclaimed constitutional originalist.
Though it’s clear Trump appointed Gorsuch because of his conservative policies which have the potential to change previous rulings like Roe v. Wade, during his confirmation hearing, Gorsuch stuck to the script and portrayed himself as a completely unbiased judge. He tried to distance himself as much as possible from the Trump administration by repeatedly asserting that he had made no promises to them in terms of what his rulings would be. However, Gorsuch’s history has shown him to be a strict “textist,” who believes that the law should be followed in its exact words regardless of the possibility of unfairness in the result.
Gorsuch has continually upheld these conservative values and strict interpretation in past cases. An example of this is the now well-known case where a truck driver was fired for leaving his cargo due to freezing conditions. Even though the driver only left his post because he would have likely died if he stayed there, when he sued the company, Gorsuch ruled in favor of the big corporation.
Though he hasn’t directly ruled on many of the hot-button issues, Gorsuch is expected to stick with the rulings of former Justice Scalia. CNN’s Supreme Court Reporter Arlane de Vogue supported this assessment of Gorsuch in an article about him, stating, “judicial conservatives are pleased with the opinions on the books, and they feel confident that on issues he has not directly considered, such as abortion and the gun rights he will be guided by his conservative values” (“Neil Gorsuch on the Issues”).
These values create fears in many people’s minds that Gorsuch will aid President Trump in restricting the rights of women and immigrants, the latter of which have already been made a clear target by the Trump administration through a series of travel bans and plans to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
One of the specific concerns that people have is with the decision of Roe v. Wade, which is the law that allows women access to healthcare, such as abortion. Though Gorsuch said in his hearing that the past ruling deserves respect and that there are many factors to consider, his past comments on privacy regarding contraceptives and abortion suggest that he will join conservative courts in severely restricting abortion rights but not reversing Roe v. Wade altogether. In addition, Gorsuch could be key in the Trump administration’s attempts to repeal Obamacare, which have so far failed.
All of these possibilities have shocked Democrats into action. They are now assessing exactly the extent of their reach in blocking many of these policies, though tensions are still high as Gorsuch’s appointment itself went over the heads of Democrats in the Senate who were trying to filibuster.
“I think that [Gorsuch’s] appointment to the supreme court will increase political unrest and up democrats’ participation,” said Saskia Esche, sophomore, who later added, “he and Trump will work together to repeal Obamacare, make laws that don’t have women’s best interests in mind, and make the political climate extremely conservative and angry.”
Still, these concerns might be premature. It’s important to remember that Gorsuch is a conservative judge replacing another conservative judge.
“I don’t feel like much will change in terms of the Supreme Court because you’re pretty much substituting one constitutional originalist with another, so I feel like it will pretty much maintain the status quo that we’ve had over the previous several years,” said Melissa Fales, history teacher.
No matter what people speculate, only time will tell whether Gorsuch will decide to stick to the current precedents or decide to change up the balance with a few of his own.