During the presidential campaign, then-candidate Trump repeatedly referenced the monumental significance of the selection of the Supreme Court justice to replace the late Antonin Scalia. After all, it is a life time appointment. Candidate Trump also repeatedly said that he would appoint justices in the spirit of Justice Scalia.
Given this context, it is fully understandable that the Senate Judiciary Committee would endeavor to assess President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver Colorado in terms of his likelihood to deliver rulings that are in the same vein as those delivered by Justice Scalia. Moreover, it is also human nature to assume that the senators would pepper the judge with questions designed to reveal his willingness and capacity to over-rule the influence of President Trump.
During Tuesday’s Senate confirmation hearing, Gorsuch did not take the bait. He repeatedly evaded questions which were conceived to elicit insights about his future rulings on topics including abortion, waterboarding, and President Trump’s executive order limiting entrance into the United States of individuals from six predominantly Muslim countries by stating that he would follow the laws of the country and defer to the existing legal precedent.
But he refused to give even a glimmer as to how he would rule on the sundry past and potential cases cited by the senators conducting the hearing. “I would be tipping my hand and suggesting to litigants that I have already made up my mind,” he proclaimed when asked to comment further on his opinion of such topics.
Gorsuch proved to be especially adept when responding to questions from the ranking Democrat on the Committee Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA) who tried to get him to discuss whether he would overturn Roe v. Wade. After Gorsuch had repeatedly stated that Roe v. Wade represented legal precedent, Senator Feinstein continued to push the argument describing Roe v. Wade as “Superprecedent” due to the number of individuals impacted by the ruling or the potential over-turning of the ruling.
Gorsuch equally held his own when asked by Senator Patrick Leahey (D-Vermont) if the President has the right to authorize torture if it violates existing law. “Senator, no man is above the law,” Judge Gorsuch responded.
When further pressed about whether he had made any agreements with the Trump Administration as to how he would rule on certain matters, Gorsuch responded, “I have offered no promises to anyone on how I would rule on any case.”
Judge Gorsuch held up very well during the first day of questioning. It will be interesting to see how he handles himself tomorrow as the questions are likely to become increasingly more aggressive.
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