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The right choice for the 9th black robe

Tribune Staff • Feb 7, 2017 at 1:00 PM

The nomination of federal Judge Neil Gorsuch for the U.S. Supreme Court has not-unexpectedly received some opposition from the left, but it’s not anywhere near the vitriol — warranted or not — met by other President Donald Trump nominees.

Maybe because Gorsuch appears to be a solid choice for the court.

If he gets the Senate’s blessing, Gorsuch, 49, would fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia a year ago this month. Many say Gorsuch’s views align with that of the late Scalia.

To be sure, Democrats, civil rights groups, and advocates of gay and abortion rights have widely panned the selection. And, naturally, Republicans, Pro-Life supporters and conservative groups have praised it.

That was all to be expected.

As a judge on the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court, Gorsuch has supported states rights over federal government overreach. Over the years, according to an Associated Press report, Gorsuch has argued for a federal hands-off approach toward an e-commerce tax in Colorado, for letting Oklahoma use state law to bar convicts from arguing their lawyer was ineffective, and for tribal jurisdiction over crimes on Indian lands in Utah.

Basically, Gorsuch doesn’t think the federal government, even courts, should get in the way of the freedoms and pursuit of happiness that American citizens are guaranteed by the Constitution. And from what we’ve read and heard, he is a proponent of upholding the Constitution and not “interpreting” it.

"Federal courts aren't free to intervene in any old dispute and rule any way they wish," he wrote in 2014.

The above quote regarded a dissent from the appeals court majority when it allowed a federal challenge to the Colorado voter-approved law requiring public approval of new taxes.

In a 2015 case, Gorsuch said that the federal government should exercise "diffused and divided power, the better to prevent its abuse."

Perhaps Gorsuch is more the right choice for the Supreme Court than even the president knows. In fact, it could come back to haunt Trump.

Alexander "Sasha" Volokh, a professor at the Emory University School of Law in Atlanta, Georgia, told the Associated Press that Gorsuch's views on the power of federal agencies could be particularly important with Trump in the White House.

"For anyone who is concerned about abuses of power under Trump, that sort of person would really welcome a theory that would limit how much authority the agencies would have to say what the statutes mean,” Volokh said.

It wasn’t right for Republicans to stonewall President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland for the same Supreme Court seat nearly a year ago. Garland should have had a fair hearing.

But revenge is not in order here. Gorsuch deserves a fair Senate hearing and, if he passes muster, confirmed.

Listen, no Supreme Court nominee is going to be universally praised. It’s a political appointment, and with that comes the baggage of our deeply divided nation. But it appears the new president has named the right one to take the ninth black robe off the hook.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Mark Brooky. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.

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