Supreme Court

  • March 31, 2017

    by Caroline Fredrickson

    Next week, Senators will vote on Trump’s most enduring legacy as president. Lawmakers will vote up or down on Judge Neil Gorsuch, the president’s nominee to be associate justice of the Supreme Court. 

    To fulfill their advice and consent duties, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee held a four-day confirmation hearing to question Gorsuch, including his 10-year record of 2,700 appeals on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. As a witness, the nominee shared center stage with the looming presences of Chief Judge Merrick Garland and Trump. Sen. Patrick Leahy’s (D-Vt.) opening statement put the three competing interests in perspective:

    The Judiciary Committee once stood against a court-packing scheme that would have eroded judicial independence. That was a proud moment. Now, Republicans on this Committee are guilty of their own “court un-packing scheme.” The blockade of Chief Judge Merrick Garland was never grounded in principle or precedent.

    While Senate Republicans were meeting in back rooms to block President Obama’s nominee, extreme special interest groups were also meeting in private – to vet potential Supreme Court nominee for then-candidate Donald Trump. I do not know of any other Supreme Court nominee who was selected by interest groups, rather than by a president in consultation with the Senate, as required by the Constitution.

  • March 31, 2017
    Guest Post

    *This piece originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

    by Christopher Kang, ACS Board Member and National Director, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans

    Last week, the Washington Post recommended that Democrats should make a deal on Gorsuch by not filibustering his nomination and instead preserving the 60-vote threshold for a future nominee. Yesterday, reports surfaced about efforts to find a last-ditch deal.

    Here are five reasons that a deal does not make sense for Democrats.

    First, Judge Gorsuch’s record. I agree with the Washington Post that “the national interest requires that Democrats judge Mr. Gorsuch ‘on the merits.’” Republicans and Democrats agree that, on the merits, Judge Gorsuch’s record demonstrates that he is a judge in the mold of former Justice Scalia. As Justice Scalia once noted about his own confirmation, “I was known as a conservative then, but I was perceived to be an honest person. I couldn’t get 60 votes today.” The same could be said of Judge Gorsuch.

    In fact, academic studies predict that Judge Gorsuch would be even more conservative than Justice Scalia. According to one study, if confirmed, Judge Gorsuch “might be the most conservative justice on the Supreme Court.” Another forecast that Judge Gorsuch would be the most conservative other than Justice Thomas—and that he is one of the most conservative among the candidates hand-selected by the ideologically-driven Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation. A third report looked at campaign contributions before becoming a judge and estimated that Judge Gorsuch is more conservative than 87% of all other federal judges.

    Given Judge Gorsuch’s judicial ideology and record, if Democrats do not insist on a 60-vote threshold now, then when would they?

  • March 23, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Mark S. Kende, Director of the Drake Constitutional Law Center, James Madison Chair in Constitutional Law

    Judge Neil Gorsuch finished testifying yesterday so today was made up of testimony by surrogates and opponents. Perhaps most significantly, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer is urging his party to filibuster the nomination. Sen. Chuck Grassley, Republican Chair of the Judiciary Committee has labeled this a smoke screen. What would be the consequences of such an action and would it be wise?

    Historically, the filibuster is most famous for being used by senators from the South seeking to block civil rights legislation. Thus it would be ironic to see the more liberal party employ this tactic. Moreover, the filibuster is a very rare specimen in the Supreme Court context. One of the only other examples was a Senate filibuster in 1968 regarding the nomination of Justice Abe Fortas to be Chief Justice, which was based on ethics concerns and political bias.

    But despite its rarity, a Democratic filibuster is completely justified by the outrageous refusal of the Republicans even to give President Obama’s nominee, the very distinguished Chief Judge Merrick Garland, a hearing. By contrast, the Democrats have shown Judge Gorsuch a huge courtesy, not shown to their nominee, in treating Gorsuch fairly and giving him extensive hearings. The Democrats have set an example of how not to be hyper-partisan and immoral. And yet Republicans still have had the chutzpa to say that a filibuster would be obstructionist. The Republicans even stole one of President Obama’s most basic executive powers from him (selecting a potential justice who would receive a fair hearing), and gave pretextual reasons for doing so. That is not just obstructionist, it was contrary to the Constitution.    

    Admittedly, a filibuster may be largely symbolic. If the Democrats keep the Republicans from obtaining 60 votes, Republican leader Mitch McConnell has said he will ensure a change in Senate rules, so that only 50 votes will be needed for Judge Gorsuch to take office. This is typical of the new Trump era -- if the Republicans are losing, they simply change the rules of the game. This may be comprehensible as raw politics, but it is shameful when the fate of the Supreme Court and the rule of law itself is at stake. 

  • March 23, 2017
    Guest Post

    *This blog post was originally testimony before the Committee on the Judiciary of the United States Senate, Hearings on the Nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court of the United States on March 23, 2017.

    by William P. Marshall, Kenan Professor of Law, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

    The Air Force is unconstitutional. Brown v. Board of Education, 348 U.S. 886 (1954), was incorrectly decided. The Equal Protection Clause does not apply to women. The First Amendment does not protect speech on the internet or prevent persons from being forced to salute the flag when it conflicts with their conscientious or religious principles. The Constitution does not require one person/one vote. There is no freedom from government intrusion into such deeply personal decisions as to whether or not to have a child. There is no right to direct the raising and educating of one’s own children. The Fifth Amendment does not require the police to inform persons charged with crimes that they have a right to counsel. The federal government may discriminate on the basis of race and ethnicity without constitutional constraint.

    These are just some of the results to which a strict adherence to “originalism” would lead. The vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the Court’s most prominent proponent of organism, and the subsequent nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill that position, has once again brought the theory of “originalism” into the spotlight. It is therefore appropriate to reexamine the validity and legitimacy of originalism as a governing mode of constitutional interpretation. I will address that issue in the remarks that follow.

  • March 23, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Imre S. Szalai, Judge John D. Wessel Distinguished Professor of Social Justice, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law

    During Judge Neil M. Gorsuch’s Senate confirmation hearings, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) asked Judge Gorsuch about his reaction to the eye-opening New York Times series on forced arbitration. (The Times series – Beware the Fine Print, can be found here, here, and here.)  Judge Gorsuch replied, “[The series] made me think about a little bit of history.”  Unfortunately, Judge Gorsuch’s understanding of history is flawed. 

    Gorsuch described the main federal statute governing arbitration, the Federal Arbitration Act, as follows: “What it [the statute] did was to favor arbitration. Congress expressed a preference that people should arbitrate their disputes. It made a judgment, policy judgment, in favor of arbitration because it’s quicker, cheaper, and easier for people.”

    Judge Gorsuch’s statements demonstrate a lack of understanding of the history of arbitration law in America. When enacting the Federal Arbitration Act during the 1920s, Congress never expressed a preference in favor of arbitration. I challenge Judge Gorsuch to explain the basis for his perception of such a Congressional preference. He will not find such a Congressional preference in the history or text of the statute. Congress never expressed a preference for people to arbitrate their disputes instead of litigating their disputes in court; Congress never expressed a preference in favor of arbitration. Instead of expressing a preference in favor of arbitration, Congress simply recognized in the Federal Arbitration Act that if merchants willingly agreed to arbitrate, a court would recognize and enforce their mutual promise to arbitrate. In other words, the Federal Arbitration Act reflects a policy-neutral view regarding arbitration. If parties agree to arbitrate, they will arbitrate. But if parties choose to litigate, they will litigate.  In enacting the FAA, Congress made no value judgment in favor of arbitration over litigation, or that one system of dispute resolution is superior to another system. In enacting the Federal Arbitration Act, Congress was simply recognizing the right and freedom of parties to choose for themselves whatever system of dispute resolution they desired.