Neil M. Gorsuch ’88, a conservative federal appellate judge who has distinguished himself across a 25-year career in the American judicial system, has been nominated as the 113th justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
The nomination was announced on January 31, ending weeks of speculation surrounding whom President Donald J. Trump would name. At this writing, the Senate hearing on the nomination was scheduled to begin on March 20, with a ruling not expected until at least April.
“Standing here in a house of history, and acutely aware of my own imperfections, I pledge that if I am confirmed I will do all my powers permit to be a faithful servant of the Constitution and laws of this great country,” Gorsuch said after Trump’s announcement, which was televised live from the White House. He is currently a judge with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Denver.
The seat Gorsuch would fill has been vacant since Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016. President Barack Obama ’83 had nominated D.C. Circuit Chief Judge Merrick Garland for the role, but Republicans refused to hold hearings to consider confirmation.
Gorsuch subscribes to originalism, a philosophy of interpreting the Constitution from the perspective of those who wrote it. He is also committed to textualism, the practice of considering only the words of the law being reviewed and not legislators’ intent or the consequences that might come with a law’s implementation. Within the legal community he is widely praised for his writing, a skill that — along with a penchant for strong opinions — he cultivated at Columbia. He penned an occasional column for Spectator, “Fed up,” and co-founded the Federalist Paper, which at the time was part newspaper and part opinion journal; a 1989 Spectator article noted that “the Federalist established the validity of a conservative view at Columbia.”
If I am confirmed I will do all my powers permit to be a faithful servant of the Constitution and laws of this great country.
Gorsuch was born in Colorado and moved to Washington, D.C., as a teenager when his mother, Anne Gorsuch Burford, became the first woman to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. He was a political science major at the College, graduated from Harvard Law in 1991 and subsequently attended Oxford as a Marshall Scholar, earning a Ph.D. in legal philosophy in 2004. From 1993 to 1994 he was a law clerk to Justice Byron R. White, then a retired member of the Supreme Court, and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. He practiced law for a decade at the Washington, D.C., firm Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel before serving in the Justice Department from 2005 to 2006.
President George W. Bush nominated Gorsuch to the Court of Appeals in 2006, and he took office that same year.
If confirmed, Gorsuch would be the second Columbian to serve on the country’s highest court. John Jay (Class of 1764) was the first chief justice, serving from 1789 to 1795.
— Alexis Boncy SOA’11