In case you didn’t notice, the star performer in the Judiciary Committee today was the nominee himself, Judge Neil Gorsuch.
He began by thanking the President for nominating him and various Senators—in both parties—for their courtesies during the ongoing confirmation process.
He followed with praise for his wife Louise—”I could not even attempt this without Louise.” To his two teenage daughters “watching out West” he had a wonderful sentence of fatherly affection: “I love you impossibly.”
He then thanked his friends—the “many hundreds [who have] written this committee on my belief.” You can never go wrong showing your appreciation for friends.
And then he thanked “my fellow judges—who do indeed have a “lonely and hard job.”
And then he thanked “my legal heroes.” They included Justice Byron White, the football great, and Justice Kennedy whom the nominee clerked for—and who “showed me that judges could disagree without being disagreeable.” And Justice Scalia, whose seat Gorsuch would take; the justice who said “the judge’s job is to follow the words that are in the law—not replace them with words that aren’t.” That’s a clear statement in behalf of interpretivism, as oppose to non-interpretivism, which is what judges do when they start replacing words.
And the fourth of his four legal heroes was Justice Jackson, who wrote clearly “so everyone could understand his decisions.” Maybe it is Jackson’s example that led Gorsuch to become the special writer that most students of his court say he is.
Finished with his list of heroes, he turned to what they taught him about the rule of law and the importance of an independent judiciary—how hard they are to win, and how easy they are to lose.
And Gorsuch addressed the subject of what is going on when judges disagree. “Our disagreements are never about politics—only the law’s demands”, he said. Take, for example the nominee’s discussion of a case from his court that was appealed to and decided by the Supreme Court in favor of the judgment Gorsuch had rendered. Justices Thomas and Sotomayor were with Gorsuch while Justices Stevens and Scalia dissented—not what some might have predicted.
Gorsuch also reminded his special audience that “under our Constitution, it is for this body, the people’s representatives, to make new laws. For the executive to ensure those laws are faithfully enforced. And for neutral and independent judges to apply the law in the people’s disputes.”
That was a statement appreciating, you could say, the separation of powers, a constitutional principle that needs all the help it can get.
Another reason to say the nominee was the day’s star performer.