Neil Gorsuch, currently a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver, would be the youngest Supreme Court justice since Justice Clarence Thomas was confirmed in 1991.
He is a proponent of originalism--meaning that judges should attempt to interpret the words of the Constitution as they were understood at the time they were written--and a textualist who considers only the words of the law being reviewed, not legislators’ intent or the consequences of the decision.
Here are some of his key decisions:
Hobby Lobby Stores v. Sebelius and Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged v. Burwell
Both cases had to do with the Obamacare mandate that employee insurance coverage provide all approved contraceptives. Gorsuch’s rulings seemed instructive; he noted that would require the objecting businesses to “underwrite payments for drugs or devices that can have the effect of destroying a fertilized human egg.”
Gorsuch’s opinions favoring the owners of Hobby Lobby craft stores and nonprofit religious group called Little Sisters of the Poor took the same sort of broad reading of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as the Supreme Court’s conservative majority.
In Gorsuch’s words, the law “doesn’t just apply to protect popular religious beliefs: it does perhaps its most important work in protecting unpopular religious beliefs, vindicating this nation’s long-held aspiration to serve as a refuge of religious tolerance.”
Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch
In this case, Gorsuch called for reconsideration of a long-standing Supreme Court decision that is little known to the public but vitally important to the functioning of the federal government.
So-called “Chevron deference” means that courts should grant wide leeway to executive branch agencies when they reasonably interpret acts of Congress that are ambiguous. Some conservatives have said that gives too much power to the executive branch. Liberals are alarmed that would be a way for courts to routinely rule against the party in power.
In this immigration case, Gorsuch said the deference has gone too far.
It allows “executive bureaucracies to swallow huge amounts of core judicial and legislative power and concentrate federal power in a way that seems more than a little difficult to square with the Constitution of the framers’ design,” Gorsuch wrote. “Maybe the time has come to face the behemoth.”