No to Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch

No to Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch

Unlike many of Mr. Trump’s nominees Judge Neil Gorsuch is technically qualified for the position he is nominated for – the Supreme Court. He is rooted in legal theory, has worked in the federal courts, most recently the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit and is of seeming calm disposition with an articulate mind. At first glance this might trigger a sigh of relief, yet Judge Gorsuch’s legal opinions and beliefs are cause for great concern. As Senator Chuck Schumer stated on CNN, “Judge Gorsuch may act like a neutral, calm judge but his record and his career clearly show he harbors a right wing, pro-corporate, special interest agenda… far too often he sides with the powerful few over everyday Americans trying to just get a fair shake”(http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/15/politics/chuck-schumer-neil-gorsuch-democrats/index.html).

With regards to being right wing, Judge Gorsuch has joined many rulings that support the social causes put forth by America’s religious right. For example, Judge Gorsuch joined the majority opinion on two notable cases in the 10th Circuit that denied rights to transgender individuals (the 2015 case of Druley v. Patton and the 2009 case Kastl v. Maricopa County Community College District) and stated in 2005 that, “American liberals have become addicted to the courtroom… as the primary means of effecting their social agenda on everything from gay marriage to assisted suicide” (http://hrc-assets.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com//files/assets/resources/Gorsuch-Report-Feb3-2017.pdf).

The NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund (LDF) reviewed Judge Gorsuch’s entire record as a judge and determined that he is unfit for the Supreme Court due to amongst other concerns, concerns regarding LGBTQ equality issues (the areas the LDF lists as having concerns over are: administrative law, access to justice, capital punishment and criminal justice, employment discrimination, education and as noted, LGBTQ equality)( http://www.naacpldf.org/press-release/naacp-legal-defense-fund-releases-comprehensive-report-civil-rights-record-judge-neil-).

Planned Parenthood in conjunction with other agencies sent an open letter to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee expressing their concerns over Judge Gorsuch. Their opening paragraph sums it up perfectly: “We are 55 reproductive rights, health, and justice organizations writing to express our strong opposition to President Trump’s nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. We implore senators to do everything necessary to block this nomination. Gorsuch has demonstrated he will go to extraordinary lengths to reach a result that would block women’s access to basic reproductive healthcare. Moreover, Trump established an outrageous litmus test for his Supreme Court nominees: they must be committed to overturning Roe v. Wade. By selecting Gorsuch, a candidate put forward by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation, Trump made it clear he believes Gorsuch passes this dangerous test and earned the applause of anti-abortion groups – including Americans United for Life, Susan B. Anthony List, and the extremist group Operation Rescue. Based on his record, writings, and the circumstances of his nomination, we believe Gorsuch would put reproductive freedom in grave danger and pose an imminent threat to our constitutional rights” (https://prochoice.org/wp-content/uploads/ReproLetterOpposingGorsuch_FINAL.pdf). This open letter addresses more than reproductive rights and makes a poignant case about Judge Gorsuch’s conservative right stances on social issues that many, if not the majority of Americans support.

A final issue regarding Judge Gorsuch’s conservative right leanings, is his history of upholding the Christian faith above all other rights, Yuvraj Joshi writing for NBC News stated, “Judge Gorsuch’s Hobby Lobby opinion casts serious doubt on his ability to recognize non-religious interests, to weight them appropriately, and to appreciate the stakes of his judgments for the most vulnerable members of society — which leads to the question: Will Neil Gorsuch be a Justice for the religious and the rich while doing injustice to women and minorities?” (http://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/opinion-gorsuch-may-be-supreme-court-s-most-religiously-motivated-n732726).

The Hobby Lobby case referenced by Joshi, displays Judge Gorsuch’s viewpoints with regards to the religious right and with regards to his pro-corporate stance. So let’s turn to this most infamous of cases. The Hobby Lobby case is the most well-known case that Judge Gorsuch and the 10th Circuit ruled on. It exemplifies Judge Gorsuch’s belief that corporations have the rights of an individual – that in the eyes of the law a corporation is a person and thus has the right to religious freedom.

In short, Hobby Lobby is a craft store owned by devout Christians who refused to provide medical insurance to their employees, which covered contraception, as required by the Affordable Care Act. The owners of Hobby Lobby believe that certain contraception is akin to abortion and thus they could not provide such coverage because doing so would make them complicit in abortion. The logic is that being a by-stander to a moral wrongdoing makes the by-stander complicit and thus accountable (in the eyes of God, as in the eyes of the law no wrongdoing occurred) for the wrongdoing. Judge Gorsuch argued that providing medical insurance as required by federal law violated Hobby Lobby’s rights to religious freedom and placed undue burden upon them. Phrased another way, Judge Gorsuch believes that a company can have religious beliefs and that these religious beliefs outweigh the beliefs as well as the legal rights and personal freedoms of an actual living, breathing individual.

The logic of the Hobby Lobby case has already been used in federal court, to support a funeral home’s firing of a trans-gender employee. The argument was that the Christian faith of the corporation (for again with the 10th Circuit’s ruling and Judge Gorsuch’s expressed opinion, it is not the faith of the company owner(s), it is the faith of the corporation), meant having a transgender employee would be a violation of God’s commands and thus the funeral home had the right to fire someone, who is protected under federal law against discrimination, so not to violate God’s commands.

(Source of information on the Hobby Lobby case: https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/courts/reports/2017/03/13/427905/trumps-supreme-court-nominee-puts-rights-corporations-individuals/).

An opinion piece in the Wisconsin Gazette, signed by amongst others, the Secretary-Treasurer of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO and the Government Relations Director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin, espouse the position that Judge Gorsuch has both conservative right and pro-corporation leanings: “… the record reveals Judge Gorsuch is… far to the right on nearly every issue. As a judge, he repeatedly sided with insurance companies that wanted to deny disability benefits and employers who wanted to cut pension benefits to employees, revealing himself as a staunch backer of corporations and willing accomplice in limiting worker’s rights. Gorsuch also regularly sided with employers in the employment discrimination cases on which he sat.

The courts are where average Americans seek redress for wrongs and ensure they are treated fairly. But in private practice, Gorsuch fought for corporations to protect them from being held accountable in class actions lawsuits. And on the bench he supported giving judges more power to strike down federal rules that protect consumers and protect the environment” (http://wisconsingazette.com/2017/03/14/a-plea-to-reject-gorsuch-for-the-u-s-supreme-court/).

A specific case example that shows Judge Gorsuch siding with corporations and against the proverbial little guy is when he expressed an opinion that a company should have had the right to fire a truck driver who abandoned his cargo due to the safety risks that sub-zero degree weather had created (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/13/us/politics/democrats-judge-gorsuch-confirmation-hearing.html?_r=0).

In conclusion, Judge Neil Gorsuch is not in the best interest of America or the majority of Americans and should not be allowed to sit on the United States Supreme Court. As the NAACP LDF stated, “In fact, LDF does not take a position on every Supreme Court nominee. However, a hard and careful review of Judge Gorsuch’s record raises serious concern about how he will approach cases involving civil rights issues of great import to the communities we serve. Without question, the findings also suggest that he is deeply ideological and conservative. Across different issues, including when race is directly and indirectly implicated, Judge Gorsuch has regularly favored the interests of the privileged and powerful—whether the government, corporations, or wealthy individuals—at the expense of equality and inclusion” (http://www.naacpldf.org/press-release/naacp-legal-defense-fund-releases-comprehensive-report-civil-rights-record-judge-neil-).

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