Gorsuch takes oath before joining high court
WASHINGTON – The Associated Press
AFP photoSurrounded by family and his soon-to-be Supreme Court colleagues, Neil Gorsuch took the first of two oaths on April 10 as he prepared to take his seat on the court and restore its conservative majority.
The 49-year-old appeals court judge from Colorado is being sworn in after a bruising fight that saw Republicans change the rules for approving high court picks - over the fierce objection of Democrats.
The first ceremony took place privately in the Justices’ Conference Room, with Chief Justice John Roberts administering the oath required by the Constitution.
Gorsuch’s wife, Marie Louise, held the family Bible and all eight of the current justices were present, said court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg. Also in attendance was Maureen Scalia, widow of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, along with her eldest son Eugene.
Later, Gorsuch was set to appear at a public White House ceremony, where Justice Anthony Kennedy was to administer the oath set by federal law, the last part of the formal process of putting a new justice on the court. Gorsuch, who once clerked for Kennedy, will be the first member of the court to serve alongside his former boss.
Gorsuch will fill the nearly 14-month-old vacancy created after the death of Scalia, who anchored the court’s conservative wing for nearly three decades before he died unexpectedly in February 2016. In nominating Gorsuch, President Donald Trump said he fulfilled a campaign pledge to pick someone in the mold of Scalia.
During 11 years on the federal appeals court in Denver, Gorsuch mirrored Scalia’s originalist approach to the law, interpreting the Constitution according to the meaning understood by those who drafted it. Like Scalia, he is a gifted writer with a flair for turning legal jargon into plain language people can understand.
Gorsuch will be seated just in time to hear one of the biggest cases of the term: a religious rights dispute over a Missouri law that bars churches from receiving public funds for general aid programs.
His 66-day confirmation process was swift, but bitterly divisive. It saw Senate Republicans trigger the “nuclear option” to eliminate the 60-vote filibuster threshold for all future high court nominees. The change allowed the Senate to hold a final vote with a simple majority.
Most Democrats refused to support Gorsuch because they were still seething over the Republican blockade last year of President Barack Obama’s pick for the same seat, Merrick Garland. Senate Republicans refused to even hold a hearing for Garland, saying a high court replacement should be up to the next president.