Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch defends 'originalist' approach during Louisville speech
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch defended his “originalist” approach to interpreting the constitution before an audience at the University of Louisville on Thursday, saying other theories inevitably lead to judges making laws from the bench.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch defended his “originalist” approach to interpreting the constitution before an audience at the University of Louisville on Thursday, saying other theories inevitably lead to judges making laws from the bench.
“Who would seriously entrust a handful of unelected, life-tenured lawyers like me to make predictive judgments about optimal social policy for the future of a very large country like ours?” Gorsuch said.
Then, in a sop to his Louisville audience, Gorsuch said: “Wouldn’t that sort of be like asking (Louisville Cardinals quarterback) Lamar Jackson to be the kicker?”
Gorsuch, 50, spoke for 32 minutes to a group of about 500 people as part of the “distinguished speaker” series at U of L’s McConnell Center.
The center’s namesake, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, introduced Gorsuch.
Other than President Trump, who nominated Gorsuch in January, perhaps no one was more instrumental in getting Gorsuch to the high court than McConnell.
Under McConnell’s leadership, the Senate refused to take up President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, last year following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016. McConnell said the next president ought to make the pick.
Then, to confirm Gorsuch, the Senate voted along party lines to change the threshold for advancing nominees to the Supreme Court, doing away with the filibuster that previously required 60 votes to overcome.
“When President Trump sent (Gorsuch’s) nomination to the Senate earlier this year… I could not have been happier,” McConnell said Thursday. “… I knew he’d be great for the country and I also knew he’d make my job – getting him confirmed – just a little bit easier.”
Gorsuch joined the court in April.
In his speech, Gorsuch said his originalist approach compels him adhere to what the constitution was “understood to mean by members of the public at the time it was ratified.”
He acknowledged it’s not a “perfect” theory and can sometimes in cases in which the “bad guy” wins, or in vastly different outcomes even when faithfully applied.
But, like democracy, originalism might be “the least-worst option available to us,” Gorsuch said.
Gorsuch said democratic governance is undermined if judges, following other theories like the “evolving” constitution, make laws from the bench.
“Why bother winning elections, winning over two houses of Congress and winning the signature of a president -- when all you need to do is convince a judge?” he said.
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