By Dave Andrusko
During today’s grilling before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch volunteered, “There’s a great deal about this [confirmation] process that I regret,” adding, “I regret putting my family through this.”
Gorsuch again invoked Byron White, the late Supreme Court justice and a fellow Coloradoan, in noting how the confirmation process has changed. When White was nominated by President John F. Kennedy half a century ago, the entire process was over much more quickly, Gorsuch noted, adding another difference between the two eras.
“When Byron White sat here, it was 90 minutes,” Gorsuch said. “He was through this body in two weeks and he smoked cigarettes while he gave his testimony.”
That all ended with the evisceration of Judge Robert Bork by pro-abortion Senate Democrats–that is, when the High Court nominee is chosen by a Republican President. Democratic nominees are questioned, but never in language that impugns their integrity, and both Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan received votes from Republican senators.
The following are selected passages from Judge Gorsuch’s utterly remarkable 13 minute introductory remarks on Monday:
Sitting here, I’m acutely aware of my own imperfections and I pledge to each of you and the American people that if I’m confirmed, I will do all my powers permit to be a faithful servant to the Constitution and laws of this great nation. ….
My mom was one of the first women graduates of the University of Colorado Law School. … She taught me that headlines are fleeting. Courage lasts. My dad taught me that success in life has very little to do with success. Kindness, he showed me, is a great virtue. He showed me to, that there are few places closer to God than walking in the wilderness or wading a trout stream, even if it is an awfully long drive home with the family dog after he encounters a skunk. …
I want to thank my fellow judges across the country. Judging is sometimes a lonely and hard job, but I’ve seen how these men and women work, how hard they work with courage and collegiality, independence and integrity. Their work that helps make real the Constitution and laws of the United States for all of us. I want to thank my legal heroes. Byron White, my mentor, a product of the west, he modeled for me judicial courage. He followed the law wherever it took him, without fear or favor to anyone. …
Justice Scalia was a mentor, too. He reminded us that words matter. That the judge’s job is to follow the words that are in the law, not replace them with those that aren’t. …
By their example, these judges taught me about the rule of law and the importance of an independent judiciary. How hard our forbearers worked to win these things, how easy they are to lose. How each generation must either take its turn carrying the baton or watch it fall.
Mr. Chairman, these days we sometimes hear judges cynically describe as politicians in robes seeking to enforce their own politics rather than striving to apply the law impartially. If I thought that were true, I’d hang up the robe.
The truth is, I just don’t think that’s what a life in the law is about. As a lawyer for many years working the trial court trenches, I saw judges and juries, while human imperfect , striving hard every day to fairly decide the cases I put to them.
As a judge now for more than a decade, I’ve watched my colleagues spend long days worrying over cases. Sometimes the answers we reach aren’t the ones we personally prefer. Sometimes the answers follow us home at night and keep us up. But the answers we reach are always the ones we believe the law requires. And for all its imperfections, I believe that the rule of law in this nation truly is a wonder. And that it’s no wonder that it’s the envy of the world.
Of course, once in a while we judges do disagree. But our disagreements are not about politics, but about the law’s demands. …
My law clerks tell me that 97 percent of those 2,700 cases I’ve decided were decided unanimously and that I have been in the majority 99 percent of the time. That’s my record, and that’s how we do things in the West.
Of course, I made my share of mistakes too. As my daughters never tire of reminding me, putting on a robe does not make me any smarter.
And I’ll never forget my first day on the job, carrying a pile of briefs up the steps to the bench, I tripped on the hem of my robe. And just about everything went flying. But troublesome as a robe can be, the robe does mean something to me, and not just that I can hide the coffee stains on my shirt.
Putting on a robe reminds us judges that it’s time to lose our egos and open our minds. It serves, too, as a reminder of the modest station we judges are meant to occupy in a democracy. …
When I put on the robe, I’m also reminded that under our Constitution, it’s for this body, the peoples’ representatives, to make new laws, for the executive to ensure those laws are faithfully executed, and for neutral and independent judges to apply the law in the peoples’ disputes.
If judges were just secret legislatures 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. And those who came before the court would live in fear, never sure exactly what the law requires of them except for the judge’s will.
As Alexander Hamilton said, “Liberty can have nothing to fear from judges who apply the law. But liberty has everything to fear if judges try to legislate, too.”
In my decade on the bench, I’ve tried to treat all who come before me fairly and with respect and afford equal right to poor and rich. …
My decisions have never reflected a judgment about the people before me, only a judgment of the law and the facts at issue in each particular case.
A good judge can promise no more than that. And a good judge should guarantee no less. For a judge who likes every outcome he reaches is probably a pretty bad judge, stretching for policy results he prefers rather than those the law compels. …
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