Who Is Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch? A Reading List

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“Echo of Scalia.” “Originalist.” “Hostile to women’s health care.” These are some of the descriptions of President Trump’s new Supreme Court nominee following the announcement Tuesday night. But The New York Times Editorial Board argues this morning that Neil Gorsuch’s resumé or temperament is beside the point: The Supreme Court seat was stolen.

It’s been almost a year since Senate Republicans took an empty Supreme Court seat hostage, discarding a constitutional duty that both parties have honored throughout American history and hobbling an entire branch of government for partisan gain.

The Los Angeles Times concurs:

The outrageous obstruction of Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court — the 10-month-long stonewall by Senate Republicans that not only stymied the high court’s ability to do its job but effectively stole the nomination of a new justice from President Obama — is now delivering its rewards to the cynical politicians who carried it out.

Justice Scalia died nearly a year ago, and President Obama nominated Merrick Garland in March 2016. At The Atlantic, Michael D. Ramsey notes that the Senate was not obligated to act on the Garland nomination.

SCOTUSblog has a thorough biography of Gorsuch, the 49-year-old judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. FiveThirtyEight labels him more conservative than Scalia, though left of Clarence Thomas. And although there are no direct rulings on abortion rights, there are others that indicate his position. The Denver Post points out that he sided with religious organizations in the Hobby Lobby case, arguing that they should not be compelled to pay for employees’ contraception as called for in the Affordable Care Act:

“It is not for secular courts to rewrite the religious complaint of a faithful adherent, or to decide whether a religious teaching about complicity imposes ‘too much’ moral disapproval on those only ‘indirectly’ assisting wrongful conduct,” he noted in a concurring opinion.

SCOTUSblog and other outlets look to Gorsuch’s book, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, for further guidance:

Unlike unintended side effects, too, intended decisions to harm someone or something represent resent a denial that the objects of our actions possess innate value. Thus, for example, to run down deliberately for sport the child darting into the street, or to kill grandpa for the insurance money, or to shoot a hostage to make a political point is to make a willed denial that these objects of our actions hold anything akin to innate value worthy of our respect simply by virtue of their being. Such actions demonstrate a judgment or a decision that the objects of our actions have value to us only as instruments of our pleasure or pique, as means to an end. To harm something intentionally is, thus, simply and necessarily to deny that it contains inherent, rather than instrumental, value.

Recalling these principles from chapter 4, how do they speak here and to the question of what it means to respect life as a basic, innate good? The short answer is that if, as I have argued, human life qualifies as a basic good it follows that we can and should refrain from actions intended to do it harm. Such actions, after all, by their very definition evince a denial of life’s innate worth; they bespeak the view that human life is not itself a sufficient reason for action in and of itself but may be deliberately subordinated to other efforts and ends. To act intentionally against life is to suggest that its value rests only on its transient instrumental usefulness for other ends. At the same time, nothing in this answer suggests that we may never take actions that end life—even when death is fully foreseen. To defend human life as a basic good, to declare innately valuable, we need not (and cannot) say that human life must never be harmed under any circumstances, cumstances, or even that the preservation of human life is the most important object for human action that must always come first in some absolute and vitalistic fashion. Indeed, the inviolability-of-life view I espouse represents something thing of a mean between two extremes—between the extreme (just explored) of those who would deny equal treatment to some persons’ lives and effectively declare them less than fully human and the other extreme of those who would demand that the respirator never be pulled, or the feeding tube never withdrawn out of rigid adherence to a view that life must be categorically preferred to any other end or good.