By Max Breene
On Jan. 31, President Donald Trump nominated judge Neil Gorsuch of the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to be the next associate Supreme Court justice of the United States.
Gorsuch’s nomination comes nearly a month after the end of the 114th U.S. Congress, when the nomination of Chief Justice Merrick Garland of the D.C. Circuit expired. Former president Barack Obama nominated Garland in the final year of his second term, but the D.C. justice was never granted a vote of the U.S. Senate due to a shameful act of obstruction on the part of Senate Republicans. If Garland had been confirmed, he would have joined justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and Elena Kagan to be the fourth Jew on the current bench of the high court.
For many Jews across America, the nomination of Merrick Garland offered hope that issues important to them would be won in the Supreme Court. It’s easy, now, to point the finger at Gorsuch and do the same to him that was done to Garland. That, however, would be the wrong way to go.
We as Jews should not blindly associate Gorsuch with the same people who blocked Garland from receiving a vote on his nomination. In fact, Gorsuch penned a 2002 column regarding Garland who, at the time, was seeking confirmation to become a federal appellate judge. He wrote that Garland was “grossly mistreated” by senators from both parties, despite being amply qualified for the job. After learning of his nomination to the high court by President Trump, Gorsuch showed again that he was aware of Garland’s mistreatment, placing a call to the Obama nominee “out of respect.”
Merrick Garland is a qualified and deserving candidate for the Supreme Court, and Senate Republicans stripped him of his opportunity to get a hearing or a vote on his nomination. This was wrong, but two wrongs do not make a right. Gorsuch is just as qualified as Garland, and should be given a fair opportunity by Democrats in the Senate. Gorsuch should also be given a chance by the Jewish community. He may not share our religion like Garland does, but Gorsuch will fight for Jews across the country on the Supreme Court.
One of the most important issues to Jews is the free expression of religion. We have historically had our beliefs suppressed by people who wish to destroy our religion, and in America we look to the Supreme Court to ensure that this most important of rights is not infringed upon. Gorsuch has spent much of his time on the lower courts fighting for this right. In particular, Jewish groups have been encouraged by Gorsuch’s opinion in the case of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. v. Sebelius. The majority opinion, including Gorsuch, found that “the government mandate to provide insurance that violated their beliefs substantially burdened the companies’ exercise of religious freedom.” Essentially saying, a kosher butcher does not have to follow a government order mandating non-kosher butchering practices, because it would violate his or her religious principles.
Garland would have been a great member of the Supreme Court, especially for the Jewish community. However, the blame for his unfortunate obstruction in the Senate should not be leveled on the new nominee. Gorsuch should have a fair chance to be confirmed. Although he was nominated by Trump, an extremely controversial figure himself, it doesn’t mean that Gorsuch will be his puppet. Rather, if confirmed, Gorsuch could very well become an opponent of Trump on the Supreme Court on many issues. The great thing about the U.S. court system is that Supreme Court justices receive a lifetime appointment. Gorsuch will be bound by nothing but his beliefs and his convictions on the bench, and I believe he will do what is best for the American Jewish community.
Max Breene is a freshman journalism and government and politics double major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.