Gorsuch takes Supreme Court seat after divisive confirmation

Posted April 18, 2017

President Donald Trump nominated Gorsuch on January 31, and the Senate Judiciary Committee held four days of hearings beginning March 20.

The swearing in, performed by Justice Anthony Kennedy (for whom Gorsuch once clerked), was the second. Gorsuch's nomination should come as no surprise to the left, but they seem to forget that during the campaign, Trump shared a list of people he would nominate to the Supreme Court if he won.

Gorsuch has been a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, based in Denver.

"Justice Gorsuch, you are now entrusted with the sacred duty of defending our Constitution", Mr. Trump said during the ceremony. Scalia's most notorious action was the court ruling in Bush v. Gore, which suppressed the recounting of ballots in Florida after the 2000 presidential election and awarded the White House to Bush.

In the April 19 oral argument, the justices will consider whether the Missouri Department of Natural Resources' rejection of a grant application by Trinity Lutheran Church violated the U.S. Constitution. Gorsuch, only 45 years old, is expected to serve for many years.

Gorsuch, who also clerked for the late Justice Byron White, a fellow Coloradan, fills the seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia previous year.

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Gorsuch's confirmation comes at the end of a long, unseemly, petulant, politically and civically corrosive sequence of events that has gone on now for more than a year, and from which nearly no one involved has emerged unsullied. Gorsuch is now the "junior justice", the freshman of the nine-member court.

Senate Republicans invoked the "nuclear option" — allowing all future Supreme Court nominees to pass with a 51-vote simple majority instead of the previous 60-vote threshold.

As a Justice Department lawyer from 2005-2006, Gorsuch led all government litigation arising from the United States war on terror, including its defense of the extraordinary rendition of Khaled el-Masri, a German-Lebanese citizen who was handed over to the Central Intelligence Agency in Macedonia in 2003 and flown to Afghanistan. Without that number of votes, senators could filibuster the nomination.

The biggest case still looming involves Trinity Lutheran Church in Missouri, which had sought money to renovate its playground from a state program created to improve park safety for children.

Petitions from challengers seeking to have their cases heard in the 2017 term that begins in October include a potpourri of contentious issues, including whether concealed guns can be carried in public, whether states can further restrict voting rights, and whether merchants with religious objections can refuse to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies.

This removed the ability for nominees to the Supreme Court to be filibustered.