In 2006, Republicans and Democrats alike came together to unanimously confirm a bright young lawyer named Neil Gorsuch as a federal appeals court judge. Not a single member of the Senate objected to his confirmation, because he had such a sterling record as smart and fair-minded lawyer. Now he is being considered for the U.S. Supreme Court, and I hope he once again receives the strong support of the Senate.
He is qualified and experienced. He served as a law clerk for two different Supreme Court justices and, before both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate unanimously confirmed him to serve as a federal appeals judge, he worked in the private sector and in the office of the Attorney General.
His record as a judge shows that he is a fair, independent, and a consensus builder. He knows how to find common ground. Ninety-seven percent of the cases he has decided were unanimous with the other two judges on the panel. He has been in the minority of the judges less than two percent of the time. Out of the more than 180 opinions he has written as a judge, only one has ever been appealed to the Supreme Court, and even then, the Supreme Court affirmed his ruling.
Judge Gorsuch is also respected by other lawyers and judges. One of former President Obama’s lawyers, Neil Katyal, said Judge Gorsuch’s “record should give the American people confidence that he will not compromise principle to favor the president who appointed him…He’s a fair and decent man.”
Judge Gorusch understands that his job is to be fair—not to impose his views on people. As he put it in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, his job is “not about politics…If judges were just secret legislators, declaring not what the law is but what they would like it to be, the very idea of a government by the people and for the people would be at risk.“ I think he’s right. Judges should not try to legislate from the bench.
Judge Gorsuch and I met recently to talk about his philosophy of judging cases. I was impressed with his approach. He assured me that he will uphold the law as written—even if it goes against his personal beliefs.
Our laws are ultimately an expression of the will of the people. As the Constitution itself says, “we the people…establish this Constitution.”
In our Republic, Congress writes the laws; the President ensures that the laws are executed faithfully, and the courts apply the law to specific cases.
When judges try to change the law rather than apply the law, they make themselves into an un-elected Congress. That’s not just arrogant; it’s unfair—not because it steals legitimate authority from Congress, but because it silences the voice of the people who elected us.
The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land. Rulings by the Supreme Court cannot be appealed to any higher court, and can only be overturned by changing the law. In recent decades it has been increasingly asked to decide important matters that affect us all: health care, immigration, energy and environmental policies, First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of religion, Second Amendment rights, and a thousand other issues. The Court affects all of our lives more than ever.
Unfortunately, some judges have essentially re-written laws to fit their beliefs. It’s not right, and it’s one reason why so many people have felt like their voices just aren’t being heard.
That’s why it’s so important that we have a Supreme Court justice who will fairly and impartially apply the law and protect the rights guaranteed by the Constitution—not to legislate from the bench. Judge Neil Gorsuch is that kind of judge, and I’m proud to support his confirmation.
Rob Portman is a United States senator from Ohio.