President Trump on Tuesday nominated Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, a federal appeals court judge in Denver, to fill the Supreme Court seat left open by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, elevating a jurist whose conservative bent and originalist philosophy fit the mold of the man he would succeed.
Mr. Trump’s announcement, delivered during prime time in the East Room of the White House, marked his first bid to reshape the nation’s highest court.
It presaged a bitter political battle on Capitol Hill, where Democrats in the Senate, still stung by the Republican refusal to confirm President Barack Obama’s nominee for the seat, Judge Merrick B. Garland, have promised stiff resistance.
If confirmed, Judge Gorsuch would restore the 5-to-4 split between liberals and conservatives on the court, handing Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, 80, who votes with both blocs, the swing vote.
At 49, Judge Gorsuch is the youngest nominee to the Supreme Court in 25 years, underscoring his potential to shape major decisions for decades to come. In choosing him, Mr. Trump reached for a reliably conservative figure in the Scalia tradition but not someone known to be divisive.
A Colorado native who was in the same class at Harvard Law School as Mr. Obama, Judge Gorsuch is known for his well-written, measured opinions that are normally, though not exclusively, conservative. He holds a Ph.D. from Oxford University, where he was a Marshall Scholar, and a pedigree as a law clerk at the Supreme Court to Justices Byron R. White and Kennedy. President George W. Bush nominated Judge Gorsuch to the federal bench in 2006.
Judge Gorsuch’s personal connections to Justice Kennedy are no accident. By choosing a familiar figure, several officials said, the White House is sending a reassuring signal to Justice Kennedy, 80, who has been mulling retirement.
Choosing a more ideologically extreme candidate, the officials said, could tempt Justice Kennedy to hang on to his seat for several more years, depriving Mr. Trump of another seat to fill.
Still, Judge Gorsuch’s conservative credentials are not in doubt. He has voted in favor of employers, including Hobby Lobby, who invoked religious objections for refusing to provide some forms of contraception coverage to their female workers. And he has criticized liberals for turning to the courts rather than the legislature to achieve their policy goals.
There had been speculation that Mr. Trump would choose someone with a less elite background for the court. The other finalist for the post, Judge Thomas M. Hardiman, was the first person in his family to graduate from college, and helped pay for his education by driving a taxi.
Click here to read more.
SOURCE: NY Times, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Mark Landler