Senate confirmation hearings for President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch began today with more than four hours of remarks from Republican and Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
As is custom, Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner introduced Gorsuch, who was born in Denver and has worked as a circuit judge for the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver since 2006.
Gardner’s remarks centered around Gorsuch’s respect for precedent, and on the positive reviews many Colorado Democrats gave the judge during his 10th Circuit hearing in 2006. “Judge Gorsuch appreciates the rule of law and respects the considered judgement of those who came before him. As he said, a good judge will seek to honor precedent and strive to avoid its disparagement or displacement,” he said.
Bennet called the failure of the Senate Majority to grant a hearing to Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill the vacancy left by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, “an embarrassment” that will be recorded in history. Bennet also derided Trump’s “reckless attacks on the judiciary.” He then pleaded for an end to divisive partisanship in the Senate, calling upon the body to grant Gorsuch the hearing that Garland deserved. As for his own vote, he said he would “keep an open mind.”
Earlier in the day, Republican Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the committee chair, opened the remarks by praising Gorsuch’s “grasp of the separation of powers, including judicial independence.” Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who together with Grassley will preside over the hearings, began her remarks by mentioning Senate Republicans’ decision to block Garland’s hearing. Gorsuch’s nomination, Feinstein said, was made possible only by Garland’s “unprecedented treatment” as a nominee.
Bennet faces the same predicament faced by other Democrats: whether to confirm Gorsuch, a well-respected and highly qualified conservative, or to take a stand against the nominee as Republicans did with Garland. He has not yet spoken publicly about how he plans to vote.
Here are both senators’ full introductions. Gorsuch’s remarks are available here.
SEN. CORY GARDNER:
Thank you Mr. Chairman, Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Feinstein. I would like to begin by thanking all of you on the committee for all of your hard work during the hearings in the next several days. Today it is with great pleasure that I introduce, along with my colleague and fellow Coloradan Senator Michael Bennet, and share my strong support for our outstanding Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch. If you’ve ever had the privilege of visiting Confluence Park in Denver, you’ll notice a plaque bearing a poem by Colorado Poet Laureate Thomas Horsby Ferril. It’s a poem known as “Two Rivers” describing the settlement of the West:
“I wasn’t here, yet I remember them, that first night long ago, those wagon people that pushed aside enough of the cottonwoods to build our city where the blueness rested. Where the optimistic blueness of our Colorado skies rests against the mountains and the plains, we are reminded about how incredibly diverse our great nation is, its people and its geography.”
Judge Gorsuch’s nomination helps recognize that, indeed, there are highly qualified jurists west of the Mississippi River. Judge Gorsuch is a fourth-generation Coloradan, skier, fly fisher, serving on a court that represents 20 percent of our nation’s landmass, whose family roots reflect the grit and determination that built the West.
Once confirmed, Mr. Gorsuch will join Justice Byron White and be only the second Coloradan to have served on the United States Supreme Court — and the only Coloradan to be serving on the U.S. Supreme Court who did not break the NFL rushing record. But the good news is today, he does have the endorsement of Number 7, John Elway, of the great Denver Broncos.
Should he be confirmed, Judge Gorsuch will make history as he represents the first Generation X justice of the United States Supreme Court, the emerging generation of American leadership.
Judge Gorsuch was confirmed to the 10th Circuit Court unanimously by voice vote in 2006. Eleven years ago, Senator Graham presided over an empty committee room, an empty dais. What a difference a court makes.
But when you look at his record, his writing, his statements, it’s easy to see why Judge Gorsuch has such overwhelming appeal. Judge Gorsuch is not an ideologue. He’s a mainstream jurist who follows the law as written, and doesn’t try to supplant it with his own personal policy preferences. As he said, personal politics or policy preferences have no useful role in judging. Regular and healthy doses of self-skepticism and humility about one’s own abilities and conclusions always do.
Judge Gorsuch is not an activist judge, but rather a faithful adherent to, and ardent defender of, our Constitution.
He’s an originalist, as Justice Kagan even described herself in her confirmation hearing to the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Gorsuch recognizes that the judiciary is not the place for social or constitutional experimentation, and that efforts to engage in such experimentation delegitimize the Court.
As he said, this overweening addiction to the courtroom as the place to debate social policy is bad for the country and bad for the judiciary.
As a society, we lose the benefit of the give-and-take of the political process and the flexibility of social experimentation that only the elected branches can provide.
Judge Gorsuch has a deep appreciation and respect for the constitutional principles of federalism and the separation of powers prescribed by our Founding Fathers.
As he stated, a firm and independent judiciary is critical to a well-functioning democracy. Judge Gorsuch understands the advantage of democratic institutions and the special authority and legitimacy that come from the consent of the governed.
As he said, judges must allow the elected branches of government to flourish and citizens, through their elected representatives, to make laws appropriate to the facts and circumstances of the day.
Judge Gorsuch appreciates the rule of law and respects the considered judgement of those who came before him. As he said, a good judge will seek to honor precedent and strive to avoid its disparagement, or displacement.
It’s this appropriate temperament, this fidelity to the Constitution, this remarkable humility, that has made Judge Gorsuch a consensus pick among Colorado’s diverse legal and legislative communities.
Former Colorado Senator Democrat Ken Salazar, in praising Judge Gorsuch’s temperament during his Circuit Court confirmation, said, a judicial nominee should have a demonstrated dedication to fairness, impartiality, precedent and the avoidance of judicial activism from both the left and the right. I believe that Judge Gorsuch meets this very high test.
Jim Lyons, a prominent Colorado lawyer and former adviser to President Bill Clinton, said Judge Gorsuch’s intellect, energy and deep regard for the Constitution are well known to those of us who have worked with him and have seen first-hand his commitment to basic principles. Above all, this independence, fairness and impartiality are the hallmarks of his career and his well-earned reputation.
Colorado’s former Democratic Governor Bill Ritter and former Republican Attorney General John Suthers jointly said it’s time to use this confirmation process to examine and exalt the characteristics of a judge who demonstrates that he or she is scholarly, compassionate, committed to the law and will function as part of a truly independent, apolitical judiciary. Judge Gorsuch fits that bill.
According to the Denver Post, Marcy Glenn, a Denver attorney and Democrat, recalls two cases before Gorsuch in which she represented underdogs. And I quote Marcy Glenn, “He issued a decision that most certainly focused on the little guy.”
Judge Gorsuch has a consistent record of applying the law fairly, and his reputation among his peers and lawmakers is evidence of it. For all of these reasons cited today, I’m certain Judge Gorsuch will make Colorado proud, and that his opinions will have a positive impact on this country for generations to come.
I look forward to Judge Gorsuch receiving a fair hearing and after that, to working with my distinguished colleagues on both sides of the aisle to expeditiously confirm his nomination.
Thomas Horsby Ferril wrote another poem, this one memorialized in a mural on the walls of the Colorado Capitol rotunda. It ends with these words:
“Beyond the sundown is tomorrow’s wisdom. Today is going to be long, long ago.”
The wisdom of Neil Gorsuch, guardian of the Constitution, will serve our nation well for generations to come. Mr. Chairman, committee members, thank you.
SEN. MICHAEL BENNET:
Thank you Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you and the committee for allowing me to be here today. It is a distinct privilege to be here with my colleague Senator Gardner from Colorado to introduce Judge Neil Gorsuch, a son of Colorado, born and raised in Denver with a distinguished record of public service, private practice and outstanding integrity and intellect. And I welcome as well his wife Louise, who met the judge during their studies at Oxford and who moved from the United Kingdom to Colorado where they now live with their two daughters in Boulder.
Senator Gardner has done a great job summarizing Judge Gorsuch’s professional background. His experience and his approach to his work has earned him the respect of both the bench and the bar in our state. Judge Gorsuch’s family has deep roots in Colorado. His grandfather grew up in an Irish tenement in Denver and began supporting the family at the age of 8. His other grandfather was a lawyer who worked his way through law school, serving as a streetcar conductor in Denver. His grandmother was one of the first women to graduate from the University of Denver in the 1920s.
As a person and as a lawyer, Judge Gorsuch exemplifies some of the finest qualities of Colorado, a state filled with people who are kind to one another, who, by and large, do not share the conceit that one party or one ideology is all right and the other all wrong, and who are conscious of the legacy we owe the generations who forged our state out of the western territory of the United States. If confirmed, Judge Gorsuch will be first justice since Sandra Day O’Connor from the West. No less an authority than Justice Scalia observed this lack of representation when he wrote in a dissent that the Court has, quote, not a single general Westerner, and then added in parentheses, California does not count. And with respect to our ranking member, I think I speak for my colleague from Colorado that on this point, and perhaps this point alone, he, I and Justice Scalia are in agreement.
I’m also here because I believe the Senate has a constitutional duty to give fair consideration to this nominee, just as we had a duty to consider fairly Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to fill this vacancy.
I am not naive about the reasons the Senate Majority denied Judge Garland a hearing and a vote. The Senate’s failure to do its duty with respect to Judge Garland was an embarrassment to this body that will be recorded in history and in the lives of millions of Americans, and it is tempting to deny Judge Gorsuch a fair hearing because of the Senate’s prior failure.
But Mr. Chairman, two wrongs never make a right. The Supreme Court is too important for us not to find a way to end our destructive gridlock and bitter partisanship.
In my mind, I consider Judge Gorsuch as a candidate to fill the Garland seat on the Supreme Court. And out of respect for both Judge Garland and Judge Gorsuch’s service, integrity and commitment to the rule of law, I suggest we fulfill our responsibility to this nominee and to the country by considering his nomination in the manner his predecessor deserved, but was denied.
Mr. Chairman, there’s a second cloud that hangs over this confirmation hearing. It is President Trump’s reckless attacks on the judiciary. These attacks, like the President’s attacks on the free press, have no precedent in the history of our republic. The independence of our courts is an essential strength of our democracy.
Attacking the judicial branch erodes the public confidence that gives force to its judgments. It damages the very foundation of our constitutional system. Disagreeing with a court’s decision is acceptable. Disparaging a judge is always wrong.
I have no doubt that unlike the President, Judge Gorsuch has profound respect for an independent judiciary and the vital role it plays as a check on the executive and legislative branches. I may not always agree with his rulings, but I believe Judge Gorsuch is unquestionably committed the rule of law.
Mr. Chairman, it is customary for senators to introduce nominees from their home state, and I’m not here today to take a position or persuade any of our colleagues how to vote. That is a matter of conscience for each of us. I am keeping an open mind about this nomination and expect this week’s hearings will shed light on Judge Gorsuch’s judicial approach and views of the law.
Like many Americans, I look forward to the committee’s questions and the testimony from the nominee. And as one of two Americans privileged to represent the state of Colorado in the United States Senate, I am here this afternoon to uphold a tradition, with the hope that in some small way it helps restore the Senate’s strong history of cooperation, especially in our nation’s most difficult times.
Whatever the results of this hearing, we senators must respond in some way to the expectations of most Coloradans and most Americans who are eager for us to work together, and to treat each other with respect, particularly when it comes to extraordinarily important decisions like this one.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Screenshot captured from the New York Times live stream.