People talk endlessly these days about how divided Americans are, but I’m not sure I believe it. Yes, it’s true that Americans don’t much agree on politics at the moment. And we are as religiously and ethnically diverse as we’ve ever been. But what we do share, and always have, is a deep attachment to an idea of justice: one founded on freedom and equality and embodied in the US Constitution. Year in and year out, it’s that idea of justice, and that Constitution, that unites Americans.
Which is why President Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the US Supreme Court is so important. To guard our most cherished values and the law that holds us together, America needs a Supreme Court justice committed to the people’s Constitution. Neil Gorsuch is that person.
I should know. I’ve seen Gorsuch at work, firsthand. My first job out of law school was on the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, where Gorsuch is a judge. I observed in the year that I worked at the court what many litigants and commentators have since noted, that Gorsuch possesses an incisive legal mind, writes with skill and wit, and is scrupulously fair.
I have seen Gorsuch’s work from the other side of the bench as well, in my practice as a constitutional lawyer. In 2013, Gorsuch’s court decided one of the most significant religious liberty cases of the last half century, ruling that Americans do not give up their religious liberty rights when they start a family business. The name of the case was Hobby Lobby. I was one of the lawyers for the Green family, who run and own Hobby Lobby, at the US Supreme Court. When the case reached the justices of that Court, they agreed with Judge Gorsuch.
These days, I spend my time defending the people of Missouri, and one of the biggest threats to Missourians’ livelihoods is an out-of-control, unaccountable federal bureaucracy. For those of us on the front lines fighting Washington’s power grabs, Judge Gorsuch’s commitment to interpreting the Constitution and the laws as they are actually written is welcome news. The best way to put the federal bureaucracy back on a leash is to make it obey the laws the people write.
Because this is the truth: while some have called for a liberal justice or a conservative justice, or a justice who agrees with this or that policy, none of that really matters. What America needs is a justice whose loyalty is not to politics at all, but to the people’s law.
The Supreme Court is no ordinary tribunal. It’s the body specially charged with interpreting our Constitution and our laws. When the Supreme Court does its job and interprets the Constitution according to its text — as the American people wrote it — it speaks for all of us, “we the people,”and safeguards our highest ideals. But when it substitutes its own views for the people’s words, it subverts the rule of law and damages the bonds of our shared citizenship.
We’ve had too many judges ruling according to their personal views for too long. As Gorsuch himself recently put it, “judges should be in the business of declaring what the law is using the traditional tools of interpretation, rather than pronouncing the law as they might wish it to be in light of their own political views.” That should go for conservatives and liberals alike.
By any measure, Gorsuch is a remarkably well-qualified nominee. He’s already made headlines demonstrating his temperament and independence. He has served as a federal judge with distinction. He is respected by his fellow lawyers and judges. He has won praise from across the political spectrum. Indeed, when he was first nominated to the bench in 2006, the American Bar Association gave Gorsuch its highest rating, and the Senate confirmed him with overwhelming bipartisan support.
Now it is time for the Senate to do its job. The Supreme Court has been suspended in a 4-4 deadlock for a year, and whether the issue is immigration or the First Amendment or labor law, the Court needs another vote to break the jam. Then too, one out of five voters told pollsters in November that the Supreme Court was the issue that decided their vote. The President has nominated a highly qualified and fair-minded judge. Democrats in the Senate owe it to the American people to give this exceptional nominee an up-or-down vote, no filibustering, no political games.
The Constitution makes Americans who we are. Now is the time to confirm a justice who will protect it.