Judge Neil Gorsuch nominated to fill Supreme Court vacancy

Michael Reynolds | EPA
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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the seat on the U.S. Supreme Court that has been empty since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016.

Trump described Gorsuch as a man the country needs, adding his pick for the high court already has had bipartisan support. "Judge Gorsuch has outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, tremendous discipline," he said in announcing his nominee Jan. 31 at the White House.

Maureen McCarthy Scalia, the widow of the late justice, was in audience when Trump announced his decision. One of the couple's children also was present: Father Paul Scalia, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, Va.

In his remarks, Gorsuch expressed thanks to his friends, family and faith for giving him balance, as well as saying he was honored and humbled to be chosen as a nominee to the nation's highest court. He described Scalia as "lion of the law" and said he misses him.

Gorsuch respects the fact that Congress, not the courts, writes new laws, saying, "It is the role 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, stretching for results he prefers rather than those the law demands."

Several news outlets reported that demonstrators rallied outside the Supreme Court building to protest Trump's choice of Gorsuch. However, pro-life organizations praised the president's selection of someone who they expect will "carry on the legacy" of Scalia.

A judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, Gorsuch is 49, making him the youngest Supreme Court nominee in 25 years. Born in Denver, he currently lives outside of Boulder, Colo., with his wife and two daughters. He lived in the Washington area as a teenager when his mother, Anne Gorsuch Burford, was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Gorsuch attended the Jesuit-run Georgetown Preparatory School at which he won a national debate championship.

Gorsuch has the typical qualifications of a high court justice. He graduated from Columbia, Harvard and Oxford, clerked for two Supreme Court justices and also worked for the Department of Justice.

He also is an adjunct law professor at the University of Colorado, and he wrote a 2009 book arguing against the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Gorsuch hasn't written a ruling specifically on abortion, but he has strong views on religious liberty. He sided with the Little Sisters of the Poor in their challenge of the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act. And in Hobby Lobby Stores v. Sebelius, in June 2013, the 10th Circuit ordered the federal government to stop enforcement of the federal mandate against Hobby Lobby, the Oklahoma-based Christian chain of retail arts and crafts stores. In his concurrence, Gorsuch said the contraception mandate substantially burdened the company's religious exercise — a decision the Supreme Court later upheld.

Gorsuch is an Episcopalian. Scalia, who had been one of six Catholic members of the court, was often described as its most conservative voice and known for his strict interpretation of the Constitution's intent. 

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