Gorsuch Charts Course as Originalist With Independent Streak
Published in Bloomberg Law
Justice Neil Gorsuch has delivered almost precisely what conservatives were hoping for over his two years on the U.S. Supreme Court, even though his principles occasionally take him in other directions.
He’s followed the originalist mold of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, even joining the court’s liberals at times on criminal procedure matters as Scalia often did. He’s made Clarence Thomas less of an iconoclast in arguments to overturn longstanding precedents.
But he’s also made his individual marks with bold wording on capital punishment and Native American rights, including his opinion this month that the Eighth Amendment’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment doesn’t “guarantee a prisoner a painless death.”
“Gorsuch has been a grand slam for President Trump, who campaigned on a promise to appoint originalist and textualist justices in the mold of Scalia,” Mike Davis, who clerked for Gorsuch at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit and at the high court, told Bloomberg Law.
To progressives, Gorsuch has been a fifth vote against workers and voting rights, and for Trump’s “outrageous travel ban targeting Muslim countries,” said Sam Berger, a former adviser to President Barack Obama. He’s now vice president of the Democracy and Government Reform Program at the Center for American Progress.