President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, has made his judicial philosophy clear through opinions, speeches and other writings. He is widely described as a federalist and an originalist.
A look at those judicial philosophies, opposing ones and an excerpt from Gorsuch’s writings on the concepts:
A term coined in the 1980s to describe a judicial philosophy focusing on the text of the Constitution and the Founding Fathers’ intentions in resolving legal disputes. Originalists argue that new legislation, rather than new interpretations of the Constitution, is the best way to bring about social change and safeguard minority rights. Originalists say relying on text doesn’t mean they can’t grapple with contemporary phenomena, such as the radio or Internet.
Sometimes referred to as “loose constructionism” or “modernism,” this judicial philosophy considers the Constitution to be a living document, able to encompass society’s changing, evolving values. Judges who approach decisions this way are sometimes called “activist judges” by critics.
ORIGINALIST VIEW, IN HIS OWN WORDS
“In the legislative arena, especially when the country is closely divided, compromises tend to be the rule of the day. But when judges rule this-or-that policy unconstitutional, there’s little room for compromise. One side must win, the other must lose. … It is a warning sign that our judiciary is losing its legitimacy when trial and circuit-court judges are viewed and treated as little more than politicians with robes.” — Gorsuch writing in National Review, 2005.
Favors the power of states to run their own affairs. Gorsuch has repeatedly favored extended greater power to states, counties, towns and American Indian tribes and has railed about what he views as government overreach, sometimes by the courts. Supporters of a strong federalist system say it’s important for policies such as school standards to be set by local and state governments rather than federal authorities.
This belief favors concentrating power in a national government and promotes uniform laws and standards across state lines. In landmark rulings on topics including school desegregation and same-sex marriage, federal courts have set nationwide policy.
FEDERALIST VIEW, IN HIS OWN WORDS
“Ours is not supposed to be the government of the `Hunger Games’ with power centralized in one district, but a government of diffused and divided power, the better to prevent its abuse.” — Gorsuch writing in 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals opinion, 2015.
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