Legal Aid's Chief Attorney Says There Are Serious Concerns about Gorsuch's Nomination to SCOTUS
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 02, 2017

Seymour W. James, Attorney-in-Chief of The Legal Aid Society, issued a statement saying the organization has "serious concerns" with the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court, particularly in the areas of law enforcement and criminal justice. He called on senators to scrutinize his record to determine if he will uphold "justice, equality and tolerance."

"The importance of this Supreme Court seat, to which another highly qualified judge was nominated but not considered, cannot be overstated," James told the New York Law journal.




New York Law Journal
NY Legal Observers See Gorsuch as Qualified, But Abnormal Political Climate May Weigh Down Nomination
Andrew Denney and Joel Stashenko
February 1, 2017

Members of New York's legal community say that Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump's nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, is well-respected and well-qualified for the job, but his nomination comes during an abnormal time in national politics.

"I don't think there's any question that he's fit for the job in ordinary terms," said Andrew Frey, a partner at Mayer Brown who served in the Solicitor General's Office from 1973 to 1986, of Gorsuch. "In a different environment I think he would be confirmed without any difficulty."

Gorsuch, 49, is a President George W. Bush appointee to the bench in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit who has served there since 2006.

A graduate of Harvard Law School and University College at Oxford, Gorsuch obtained an undergraduate degree from Columbia University.

Gorsuch clerked with Judge David Sentelle of the D.C. Circuit and then for Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court in 1993 and 1994.

If appointed to the high court, Gorsuch would succeed Justice Antonin Scalia, a staunch member of the court's conservative wing who died almost one year ago.

Both of New York's Democratic senators issued statements on Wednesday declaring they would insist on 60 votes for Gorsuch's confirmation.

Sen. Chuck Schumer said that 60 votes, which is not required to confirm a new justice but would make the vote filibuster-proof, produces a "mainstream" justice and that the need for a "consensus candidate is greater now than ever before."

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, however, said she will oppose the nomination, saying she disagrees with his ruling that a "boss should be able to make family planning decisions" and that "corporations are people," a reference to his vote with the majority in the Tenth Circuit's ruling in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius, No. 12-6294, that found for for-profit companies who raised religious objections to covering women's contraceptives under their health plans.

"Unfortunately, Judge Gorsuch has proven to have a judicial philosophy outside of the mainstream and time and time again has subjugated individual rights to those of corporations," she said.

Last year, President Barack Obama nominated D.C. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland to succeed Scalia, but Republicans in the Senate refused to hold a hearing on the pick.

Lawyers and legal scholars say the Republicans' resistance to consider Garland is unlikely to be lost on Democrats while they consider Gorsuch. Frey said that Democrats should ask Gorsuch if he made any promises to Trump as to positions he would take if he is appointed to the court, such as support for overturning Roe v. Wade.

Through a spokeswoman, Seymour James, attorney-in-chief of the Legal Aid Society, issued a statement saying the organization has "serious concerns" with Gorsuch's nomination, particularly in the areas of law enforcement and criminal justice. He called on senators to scrutinize his record to determine if he will uphold "justice, equality and tolerance."

"The importance of this Supreme Court seat, to which another highly qualified judge was nominated but not considered, cannot be overstated," James said.

Erin Murphy, a New York University School of Law professor who clerked for Garland, said that Senate Republicans "refused to abide by the Constitution" in refusing to give Garland a hearing. She said that Gorsuch is "highly respected" by most accounts and that, while he wouldn't be her first choice to succeed Scalia, in a "normal, orderly" time, Gorsuch would be qualified for the job.

"These are not normal times," she said.

In considering whether Gorsuch should succeed Scalia, senators should take into account Trump's "lack of respect for the rule of law," such as continued questions about his involvement with his business dealings into their respective decisions.

"I think a patriot would recognize that this seat does not belong to this president," Murphy said.

Michael Dorf, a Cornell Law School professor, said that in addition to the normal opposition that a Supreme Court nominee receives from members of the opposing party, refusal to hold hearings for Garland last year will be a source of lingering resentment for Senate Democrats.

Gorsuch may also have to fend off questions over his opinions about controversial actions taken by Trump early in his presidency, such as his executive order blocking immigrants from some Muslim countries, Dorf said.

As far as Gorsuch's background, Dorf said there are scant grounds on which to argue that Gorsuch does not have the credentials and background for a seat on the Supreme Court.

"There is no question that he has the professional qualifications and that he is qualified," Dorf said in an interview Wednesday.

Albany Law School Professor Vincent Bonventre also praised Gorsuch's credentials, saying he is "exquisitely well qualified" for the Supreme Court, citing Gorsuch's education and clerkships with Kennedy and White.

"Now, does that necessarily mean he is going to be a good judge? No," Bonventre said in an interview. "His qualifications don't necessarily say anything about his wisdom, his fairness or his sense of justice."

Bonventre said that unless previously unknown deficiencies in Gorsuch's record are revealed, he should be confirmed by the Senate.

But the Albany professor said he hopes Gorsuch is quizzed about his concept of originalism and whether the judge considers equal protection and equal rights to extend to such groups as women, gays and transsexuals, groups all excluded by the Founding Fathers' notions of who should share in equal protection.

New York State Sen. Michael Gianaris, a Queens Democrat who was in Harvard Law's class of 1993 alongside Barack Obama and two years behind Gorsuch, said the nominee was not as well known around Harvard Law as the former president was during their time there.

Gianaris, regarded as a liberal Democrat in Albany, said Gorsuch is "too conservative for my tastes."

"He is well-respected, but his beliefs are not in keeping with where I think this country should go," Gianaris said.

Opinions of Gorsuch varied among New York state's congressional delegation according to the party of the representative.

U.S. Rep. Daniel Donovan, R-Staten Island, called Gorsuch a "superb choice." Donovan said Gorsuch's body of legal opinions shows the same "brilliant originalist legal philosophy" of Scalia.

"I'm confident he will prove a valuable and effective justice, and I hope my colleagues in the Senate move the confirmation process forward expeditiously," Donovan said in a statement.

Louise Slaughter, a Democrat from the Rochester area, however, said it was just the similarities between Scalia and Gorsuch that she found distressing about Trump's nominee.

"Judge Gorsuch is a proponent of the same radically conservative judicial philosophy as Justice Scalia," Slaughter said.