Will Neil Gorsuch Become a Supreme Court Justice?

Will Neil Gorsuch Become a Supreme Court Justice?
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus

On January 31st, President Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the open seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. If he wins Senate approval, he would fill the seat formerly held by Justice Antonin Scalia who died in February 2016.

President Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to fill the open seat on the Supreme Court (Image from Wikimedia Commons).

President Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to fill the open seat on the Supreme Court (Image from Wikimedia Commons).

A full year ago, President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to succeed Scalia. But Senate Republicans, led by current Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), refused to hold hearings on that nomination. Republican senators concurred, saying they were only following a precedent set by Democrat Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). He indicated a determination to block Senate approval of any new nominees while a president’s term was winding down. Although he added a qualifying “except in extraordinary circumstances” to his intention, he made clear that he and Democrat colleagues would block adding anyone appointed by President George W. Bush.

When the New York Democrat stated that position, Mr. Bush had approximately 18 months to go before he would have to leave the White House. When the Republicans decided to block consideration of Merrick Garland, Obama had slightly less than a year before his term in office would end. Pointing to Schumer’s 2007 stance, Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) stated, “We’re embracing the precedent Senator Schumer advocated in 2007. If it’s good enough for [Democrats] when they’re in the majority, it’s good enough for us when we are.”

Merrick Garland’s chance to become a Supreme Court justice died when Donald Trump triumphed over Hillary Clinton last November. He continues to serve as the Chief Justice of the Washington D.C. Federal Appeals Court.

Regarding Neil Gorsuch, we have learned that he never issued a ruling on the contentious issue of abortion. But, in his book, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, he wrote that if the Supreme Court had defined a fetus as a “person,” it never would have approved abortion as it did in 1973 with the Roe v. Wade decision. Other stands he has taken indicate that he is an opponent of intentional killing, including euthanasia. Karen Middleton, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, insists that Judge Gorsuch should be considered a pronounced enemy of abortion.

On other matters of interest to conservative Americans, Gorsuch sided with the Hobby Lobby Stores in their plea for an exemption to Obamacare’s requirement that they pay for employee contraception practices. He also agreed with Utah Governor Gary Herbert’s failed effort to avoid being forced to fund Planned Parenthood.

In general, Gorsuch has been dubbed an “originalist,” a believer that the words and meaning of the Constitution should be honored as they were understood at the time they were written. In other words, new meanings should not be created for them. That alone means he is very much in sync with the late Justice Scalia who strongly advocated such an attitude. After a career that most recently had him serving on the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Gorsuch considers such matters as abortion, euthanasia, and contraception should not be judged in courtrooms, a practice that he feels is bad for the country and bad for the judiciary.

Concerns have been raised by some about Gorsuch’s five-year membership in the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. The fact that his affiliation with the CFR lasted only five years is possibly significant. The world government promoters at the CFR regularly look for bright and ambitious young people to whom they give five-year term memberships in hopes that they will adopt the CFR thinking. Gorsuch’s name appears as a CFR “term” member in 2004 and that membership is noted until 2008. He may have formally resigned or just walked away. Or the CFR moguls may have decided he was not what they had hoped for. Others have similarly decided the CFR was not for them. Not completing the five-year term with the CFR may mean that he didn’t like what he learned of this key Establishment organization. To date, he has never commented about this matter.

If Neil Gorsuch follows the lead set by Antonin Scalia, the man whose place on the court he will fill if approved by the Senate, chances are that he will follow in the footsteps of the late jurist. And that would be good for America.

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McManus_2Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.


Scalia: The Passing of the Supreme Court’s “Originalist”

Scalia: The Passing of the Supreme Court’s “Originalist”
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus

The sudden passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia evoked praise for his work from conservatives and, after perfunctory condolences directed to his family, dark words for his “originalism” from liberals. Many Americans who are unfamiliar with that term can be helped to understand its meaning by understanding Scalia’s disdain for considering the U.S. Constitution a “living” document subject to current whims and trends. He always believed that it was a hard and fast contract to be considered inviolate by all who had solemnly sworn to abide by it.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, served as an Associate Justice from 1986 until his death February 13, 2016. Cropped image from Collection of the Supreme Court, Photographer: Steve Petteway, public domain.

Advocates of the “living” document thesis claim that modern trends and attitudes should be considered part of the Constitution even if there is no portion of its language supporting their position. Those who insist that the Constitution cannot be altered or ignored at whim, or have new thinking added to it without an amendment, have become fewer in number. The lack of understanding among many Americans about the Constitution has allowed liberals to get away with what they claim because of their insistence that the Constitution lives. And like any other entity that lives, they say it grows naturally.

In reality, however, the Constitution is very much like a contract between the people and their government. Neither side has the authority to unilaterally change its terms. Change is permitted when both sides – in this case the government and the people – formally use the amendment process. But if a carpenter and a homeowner agree about a porch being added to the rear of the home, the carpenter cannot decide to omit building the agreed-upon steps to the backyard. Nor can the homeowner change the agreed-upon fee for the man’s work.

Justice Scalia always held that the terms of a contract (the Constitution in this case) must be honored by government officials. He found no permission for government to sanction abortion, or forbid private ownership of guns, or change the definition of marriage, or a great deal more. He frequently stated that lawmakers and judges should honor the wording of the document as it was understood when created or amended. He was an “originalist.” As such, he could point to the attitude of Thomas Jefferson who stated in 1801:

The Constitution on which our Union rests shall be administered by me according to the safe and honest meaning contemplated by the plain understanding of the people of the United States at the time of its adoption, a meaning found in the explanations of those who advocated it, not those who opposed it….

When a later need arose to restate his attitude, Jefferson stated:

On every question of construction, [let us] carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning can be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.

Though the term wasn’t in use during Jefferson’s time, he was an originalist. The steps to the backyard that were part of his mythical porch were noted in the agreement he and the carpenter had signed. There was no power for the carpenter to omit the steps or for Jefferson to alter the agreed-upon payment for the man’s work.

In like manner, the government and the people should similarly honor the contract known as the U.S. Constitution. This was the thinking employed by Antonin Scalia. We can only hope that whoever takes his place on the high court will, as he did, delight in being labeled an “originalist.”

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McManus_2Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.