US President Donald Trump on Tuesday nominated Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, a federal appeals court judge in Denver, to fill the Supreme Court seat left open by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, elevating a jurist whose conservative bent and originalist philosophy fit the mold of the man he would succeed.
- Justice Gorsuch at 49 years becomes the youngest judge to be picked for the exalted office in 25 years
- Gorsuch is a judge on the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and was appointed to that post by Republican President George W. Bush in 2006.
- Gorsuch is considered a conservative intellectual, known for backing religious rights, and is seen as very much in the mold of Scalia, a leading conservative voice on the court for decades.
- He is the son of Anne Burford, the first woman to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Mr. Trump’s announcement, delivered during prime time in the East Room of the White House, marked his first bid to reshape the nation’s highest court.
“Judge Gorsuch has outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, tremendous discipline and has earned bipartisan support,” Mr. Trump said, standing beside the judge and his wife in the East Room. “It is an extraordinary resume — as good as it gets.”
Mr. Trump, who recognized Justice Scalia’s wife, Maureen, in the audience as he announced his choice, heaped praise on the “late, great” jurist, saying his “image and genius was in my mind throughout the decision-making process.”
Gorsuch is the youngest nominee to the nation’s highest court in more than a quarter century, and he could influence the direction of the court for decades.
“Depending on their age, a justice can be active for 50 years. And his or her decisions can last a century or more, and can often be permanent,” Trump added.
Gorsuch is a judge on the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and was appointed to that post by Republican President George W. Bush in 2006.
Some Democrats in the U.S. Senate, which votes on whether to confirm judicial nominees, have already said they would seek to block whoever Trump nominates.
Gorsuch is considered a conservative intellectual, known for backing religious rights, and is seen as very much in the mold of Scalia, a leading conservative voice on the court for decades.
A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the choice of Gorsuch was seen by the White House as a significant departure from Supreme Court nominations from the recent past, given that many justices have come from the eastern United States. Gorsuch lives in Boulder, Colorado, where he raises horses and is a life-long outdoorsman.
“He plays it straight. He sticks to principles, and his opinions reflect a consistency regardless of who is in his courtroom,” the official said of Gorsuch.
Trump made his choice between two U.S. appeals court judges, Gorsuch and Thomas Hardiman of the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, according to a source involved in the selection process.
Gorsuch became the youngest U.S. Supreme Court nominee since Republican President George H.W. Bush in 1991 selected conservative Clarence Thomas, who was 43 at the time.
He is the son of Anne Burford, the first woman to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She served in Republican President Ronald Reagan’s administration but resigned in 1983 amid a fight with Congress over documents on the EPA’s use of a fund created to clean up toxic waste dumps nationwide.
Trump, who took office on Jan. 20, got the opportunity to name Scalia’s replacement only because the Republican-led U.S. Senate, in an action with little precedent in U.S. history, refused to consider Obama’s nominee for the post, appeals court judge Merrick Garland. Obama nominated Garland on March 16 but Republican senators led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell denied Garland the customary confirmation hearings and vote.
Trump has said his promise to appoint a conservative justice was one of the reasons he won the Nov. 8 presidential election, with Christian conservatives and others emphasizing the importance of the pick during the campaign. Trump last week said evangelical Christians would love his nominee.
Trump’s fellow Republicans hold a 52-48 majority in the Senate. The minority Democrats, irate over Garland’s rebuff, potentially could try to block the nomination with procedural hurdles.
Gorsuch has strong academic qualifications, with an Ivy League education: attending Columbia University and, like several of the other justices on the court, Harvard Law School. He also completed a doctorate in legal philosophy at Oxford University, spent several years in private practice and worked in George W. Bush’s Justice Department.