President Donald Trump nominates Neil Gorsuch to U.S. Supreme Court [video]

President Donald Trump nominates Neil Gorsuch to U.S. Supreme Court [video]

January 31st, 2017 by Associated Press in Politics National

Judge Neil Gorsuch stands with his wife Louise as President Donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017, to announce Gorsuch as his nominee for the Supreme Court.(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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This is a developing story and was updated Jan. 31 at 11:55 p.m.

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch, a fast-rising conservative judge with a writer's flair, to the Supreme Court Tuesday night, setting up a fierce fight with Democrats over a jurist who could shape America's legal landscape for decades to come.

At 49, Gorsuch is the youngest Supreme Court nominee in a quarter-century. He's known on the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals for clear, colloquial writing, advocacy for court review of government regulations, defense of religious freedom and skepticism toward law enforcement.

"Judge Gorsuch has outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, tremendous discipline and has earned bipartisan support," Trump declared, announcing the nomination in his first televised prime-time address from the White House.

Gorsuch's nomination was cheered by conservatives wary of Trump's own fluid ideology. If confirmed by the Senate, he will fill the seat left vacant by the death last year of Antonin Scalia, long the right's most powerful voice on the high court.

With Scalia's wife, Maureen, sitting in the audience, Trump took care to praise the late justice. Gorsuch followed, calling Scalia a "lion of the law."

Gorsuch thanked Trump for entrusting him with "a most solemn assignment." Outlining his legal philosophy, he said: "It is the rule 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."

Some Democrats, still smarting over Trump's unexpected victory in the presidential election, have vowed to mount a vigorous challenge to nearly any nominee to what they view as the court's "stolen seat." President Barack Obama nominated U.S. Circuit Court Judge Merrick Garland for the vacancy after Scalia's death, but Senate Republicans refused to consider the pick, saying the seat should be filled only after the November election.

Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer said he has "serious doubts" that Gorsuch is within what Democrats consider the legal mainstream, saying he "hewed to an ideological approach to jurisprudence that makes me skeptical that he can be a strong, independent justice on the court."

Trump's choice of Gorsuch marks perhaps the most significant decision of his young presidency, one with ramifications that could last long after he leaves office. After a reality television buildup to Tuesday's announcement — including a senior Trump adviser saying more than one court candidate was heading to Washington ahead of the event— the actual reveal was traditional and drama-free.

For some Republicans, the prospect of filling one or more Supreme Court seats over the next four years has helped ease their concerns about Trump's experience and temperament. Three justices are in their late 70s and early 80s, and a retirement would offer Trump the opportunity to cement conservative dominance of the court for many years.

Gorsuch would restore the court to the conservative tilt it held with Scalia on the bench. But he is not expected to call into question high-profile rulings on abortion, gay marriage and other issues in which the court has been divided 5-4 in recent years.

If confirmed, Gorsuch would join the court that is often the final arbiter for presidential policy. Justices upheld Obama's signature health care law in 2012 and could eventually hear arguments over Trump's controversial refugee and immigration executive order.

Gorsuch's writings outside the court offer insight into his conservative leanings. He lashed out at liberals in a 2005 opinion piece for National Review, written before he became a federal judge.

"American liberals have become addicted to the courtroom, relying on judges and lawyers rather than elected leaders and the ballot box, as the primary means for effecting their social agenda on everything from gay marriage to assisted suicide to the use of vouchers for private-school education," he wrote.

Gorsuch has won praise from conservatives for his defense of religious freedom, including in a case involving the Hobby Lobby craft stores. He voted in favor of privately held for-profit secular corporations, and individuals who owned or controlled them, who raised religious objections to paying for contraception for women covered under their health plans.

The judge also has written opinions that question 30 years of Supreme Court rulings that allow federal agencies to interpret laws and regulations. Gorsuch has said that federal bureaucrats have been allowed to accumulate too much power at the expense of Congress and the courts.

Like Scalia, Gorsuch identifies himself as a judge who tries to decide cases by interpreting the Constitution and laws as they were understood when written. He also has raised questions about criminal laws in a way that resembles Scalia's approach to criminal law.

University of Michigan law professor Richard Primus said Gorsuch "may be the closest thing the new generation of conservative judges has to Antonin Scalia."

Gorsuch, like the other eight justices on the court, has an Ivy League law degree. The Colorado native earned his bachelor's degree from Columbia University in three years, then a law degree from Harvard. He clerked for Supreme Court Justices Byron White, a fellow Coloradan, and Anthony Kennedy before earning a philosophy degree at Oxford University and working for a prominent Washington law firm.

He served for two years in George W. Bush's Department of Justice before Bush nominated him to the appeals court. His mother was Anne Gorsuch Burford, who was head of the Environmental Protection Agency in the Reagan administration.

Gorsuch was among the 21 possible choices for the court Trump released during the campaign. Other finalists also came from that list, including Thomas Hardiman, who serves alongside Trump's sister on the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and William Pryor, a federal appeals court judge and Alabama's attorney general from 1997 to 2004.

If Democrats decide to filibuster Gorsuch's nomination, his fate could rest in the hands of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Trump has encouraged McConnell to change the rules of the Senate and make it impossible to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee — a change known in the Senate as the "nuclear option."

A conservative group already has announced plans to begin airing $2 million worth of ads in support of the nominee in Indiana, Missouri, Montana and North Dakota, four states that Trump won and in which Democrats will be defending their Senate seats in 2018.

Graphic shows profile information for three potential Supreme Court nominees.

Graphic shows profile information for three potential Supreme...

Illustration by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump was poised Tuesday to announce his choice to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, one of the most consequential moves of his young administration and a decision with ramifications that could long outlast his time in office.

The president is to unveil his pick during an 8 p.m. EST televised address from the White House.

Two finalists for the high court slot — Neil Gorsuch and Thomas Hardiman — were both summoned to Washington ahead of Tuesday's announcement, adding a dash of drama to the announcement from the reality television star turned president. Their travel to Washington was confirmed by a White House official, who was not authorized to discuss the Supreme Court pick and insisted on remaining anonymous.

Gorsuch, 49, serves on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. A conservative with a writer's flair and polished legal pedigree, Gorsuch would be the youngest Supreme Court nominee in a quarter-century.

Hardiman, a 51-year-old with a conservative track record and working-class background, serves alongside Trump's sister on the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Both were appointed federal appeals court judges by President George W. Bush. Trump is also said to have considered a third judge, William Pryor, but Pryor's standing appeared to slip in recent days, in part because his reputation as a staunch conservative seemed likely to make him a rich target for Democratic senators in a confirmation hearing.

The judges appeared on Trump's list of 21 possible choices that he made public during the campaign, and each has met with him to discuss the vacancy that arose when Antonin Scalia died nearly a year ago.

Trump's pick will restore a general conservative tilt to the court but is not expected to call into question high-profile rulings on abortion, gay marriage and other issues in which the court has been divided 5-4 in recent years.

Despite Gorsuch and Hardiman emerging as the most likely picks Tuesday, Trump is well-known for changing his mind. Just hours before the president's announcement, his final decision was being closely held — a level of secrecy out of character for Trump advisers and associates who sometimes discuss even private deliberations in the press.

Gorsuch served for two years in Bush's Department of Justice before the president appointed him to an appeals court seat. There he has been known for clear, colloquial writing, advocacy for court review of government regulations, defense of religious freedom and skepticism toward law enforcement.

He has contended that courts give too much deference to government agencies' interpretations of statutes, a deference that stems from a Supreme Court ruling in a 1984 case. He also sided with two groups that successfully challenged the Obama administration's requirements that employers provide health insurance that includes contraception.

Hardiman has a reputation as a solid conservative on the bench but not an ideological activist. He has sided with jails seeking to strip-search inmates arrested for even minor offenses, but he joined more liberal-leaning colleagues in doing so. In Second Amendment cases, the active Federalist Society member has supported gun rights, dissenting in a 2013 case that upheld a New Jersey law to strengthen requirements to carry handguns in public.

The ninth seat on the Supreme Court has sat empty since Scalia died in February 2016. President Barack Obama nominated U.S. Circuit Court Judge Merrick Garland for the vacancy, but Senate Republicans refused to consider the pick, saying the seat should be filled only after the November election.

That GOP effort outraged the White House and congressional Democrats, who have suggested they might seek to block any choice Trump makes. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York has said Democrats will oppose any nominee outside the mainstream.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said that while Democrats may not like the "political or philosophical background" of the president's pick, "the criteria in terms of academia background, time on the bench, the expertise and criteria meets the intent of both Republicans and Democrats."

If Democrats decide to filibuster, the fate of Trump's nominee could rest in the hands of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Trump has encouraged McConnell to change the rules of the Senate and make it impossible to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee — a change known in the Senate as the "nuclear option."

A conservative group already has announced plans to begin airing $2 million worth of ads in support of the nominee in Indiana, Missouri, Montana and North Dakota, four states that Trump won and in which Democrats will be defending their Senate seats in 2018.

"Too many of our justices have succumbed to the vanity and arrogance of creating new law through judicial edict. I have the utmost respect for Judge Gorsuch's commitment and record of ruling on issues before his court based on rational interpretation of the original intent of the Constitution or law, regardless of his personal opinions. Judge Gorsuch's commitment to this fundamental legal philosophy is absolutely essential to preserving the rule of law in our democratically elected representative government, and I look forward to his swift confirmation."

— U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala.

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"The president has nominated a distinguished jurist. Now it's time for the Senate to fairly and carefully consider his nomination."

— U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.

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"Our next Supreme Court justice will have a lasting impact on the direction of our country. The Senate unanimously confirmed Judge Gorsuch to the federal bench in 2006, and he has served honorably as an appellate court judge for a decade. He is a well-respected jurist who understands the importance of upholding the Constitution and applying the rule of law in a fair and independent manner, and I am pleased that President Trump has nominated someone with such an impressive background."

— U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.

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"I have consistently said that the next Supreme Court justice should be someone who understands and values the Constitution of the United States of America, who will rule based on the law and who will not legislate through activist judicial decisions. I know that the president shares this view and based on his previous rulings, Judge Gorsuch shares the late Justice Antonin Scalia's commitment to starting all constitutional analysis with the actual text of the Constitution. In addition, Judge Gorsuch's distinguished service on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals provides vital, relevant experience for service on our nation's highest court.

— U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.

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"Hardworking Americans should be frightened by Trump's nomination of Neil Gorsuch to serve on the Supreme Court. He has a well-documented history of favoring CEOs and corporations over the very people who drive our country's economy."

— DuBose Porter, Democratic Party of Georgia Chairman

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