Justice Neil Gorsuch begins hearing arguments at the Supreme Court today, after a lengthy confirmation process that divided the United States Senate. His tenure on the Supreme Court has only just begun, but it could have a major impact on the court’s political leanings in years to come.
Gorsuch, 49, could serve on the Supreme Court for decades. And he’s likely to preserve the conservative legacy of his predecessor, Justice Antonin Scalia, who died suddenly last year, New York Times Supreme Court correspondent Adam Liptak told KGOU’s Dick Pryor.
In doing so, Gorsuch is likely to lean farther right than the moderate Justice Anthony Kennedy, for whom Gorsuch clerked in the 1990s. “There's nothing in his writings to suggest, for instance, that he sees in the Constitution a right to abortion, a right to same-sex marriage, principles that Kennedy didn't have a problem with,” Liptak said.
The newest Supreme Court justice will hear his first major case on Wednesday, regarding the separation of church and state. The case may decide whether Missouri can exclude a religious daycare center from a state program that repurposes recycled tires to cushion playgrounds.
“There's every reason to believe that Justice Gorsuch, who's been very sympathetic to claims of religious liberty, will side with the daycare center in this case,” said Liptak.
Gorsuch could also be a deciding vote on last year’s deadlocked case on public unions, Liptak said.
Future legal decisions aside, Gorsuch and his contentious nomination and confirmation serve as a reminder of a fractured Congress, said Maeva Marcus, a Constitutional law scholar and professor at George Washington University Law School.
“He's kind of a symbol of something that the Republicans did, which was to steal a seat. They kept President Obama's nominee from ever getting a hearing,” Marcus said, referring to Merrick Garland. Obama nominated Garland to the Supreme Court following Scalia’s death, but the Republican-led Senate never began confirmation hearings.