Gorsuch could be good for ag
— History of ruling on law, not emotions
Following political maneuvering that included the Senate historically invoking the “nuclear option,” Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to become the 113th Supreme Court Justice on April 7.
The Gorsuch 54-to-45 vote was the closest margin since Justice Clarence Thomas was approved more than 25 years ago.
Nominated by President Donald Trump on Jan. 13 to fill the position left open since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016, Gorsuch, who previously served as a 10th Circuit Court judge, faced partisan opposition. Most Democrats in Congress appeared to oppose Gorsuch as retaliation to the Republicans’ refusal last year to hold hearings on former President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland.
Gorsuch calmly answered questions throughout the confirmation hearings. When the Senate met on April 6 to advance the nomination, Democrats were set to filibuster in an attempt to deny a vote. This led Republican leader, Sen. Mitch Mc-Connell (R-KY), to invoke the “nuclear option” which requires a simple majority vote to advance the nomination instead of 60 “yes” votes, and avoid the filibuster.
At the swearing-in ceremony on April 10, Trump said Americans would see in Gorsuch “a man who is deeply faithful to the Constitution of the United States.”
An historic and interesting fact regarding Gorsuch’s position isthat he once served as a clerk for Justice Anthony Kennedy, making the first time that a sitting justice will serve with a justice who had been his boss.
During comments at the swearing-in, Gorsuch said, “I cannot tell you how honored I am to have here today my mentor, Justice Kennedy, administer the judicial oath, a beautiful oath, as he did for me 11 years ago when I became a circuit judge.”
The make-up of the high court now includes five conservative justices and four liberals, a majority that political watchers say could be pivotal in deciding a range of issues including abortion, gun-related issues, the death penalty, presidential powers, political spending, environmental regulation, and religious rights.
Looking at what Gorsuch could mean for farmers and ranchers, several groups see his position as positive.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) endorsed Gorsuch soon after his nomination was announced. Scott Yager, NCBA Environmental Counsel, called Gorsuch “Scalia 2.0” in reference to the justice’s views on environmental policy. Yager explained, “He wants to preserve private property rights; he shares Scalia’s preference for clear legal rules over vague standards not to mention he has a great pedigree for the job.”
Yager went on to say that Gorsuch would be good for cattle producers because “He stands for objectivity and application of the law and clarity in the law. These are things that producers need to be able to understand; how to comply with the law instead of being in fear of violating ambiguous and vague rules.”
Speaking with WLJ, Ethan Lane, Executive Director of the Public Lands Council and NCBA Federal Lands, said Gorsuch was wholeheartedly endorsed. “What we have seen in our analysis of his rulemaking in the past is that he truly has an ability to rule on the law and that is critical at that level that you don’t get swayed by the emotional arguments or anything else and you focus on the law at hand.”
Asked about possible rulings on issues like Waters of the United States (WOTUS), Lane said Gorsuch was careful not to indicate how he would rule during confirmation questions. But, Lane added, “Our support for him is based on the fact that he is a man who demonstrated that he focuses on the rule of law and in situations like the WOTUS issue we feel like the law is on our side and so a judge that is willing to look at those facts impartially and not bring personal biases to the bench is always going to break in our favor.”
WLJ asked Yager if Gorsuch had a history of rulings regarding agriculture, and while he does not, Yager said, “The big indicator is what he’s said about Chevron doctrine. This applies directly to environmental and land issues. Gorsuch wrote a separate concurrence in a case (Gutierrez- Brizuela v. Lynch) that lays out his strong belief about the bureaucracy that’s gone out of control due to Chevron, writing, ‘[Chevron] permit[s] executive bureaucracies to swallow huge amounts of core judicial and legislative power and concentrate[s] federal power in a way that seems more than a little difficult to square with the Constitution of the framers’ design.’” The Cornell University Law School website defined the Chevron Deference as “One of the most important principles in administrative law, established by the Supreme Court in Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984). The case raised the issue of how courts should treat agency interpretations of statutes that mandated that agency to take some action. The Supreme Court held that courts should defer to agency interpretations of such statutes unless they are unreasonable.”
The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) expressed pleasure at Gorsuch’s confirmation. Chase Adams, Senior Policy and Information Director for ASI, told WLJ, “It is no secret that over the next years, regulatory issues stemming from years of overreach by the agencies under executive authority will come before the Supreme Court.
Justice Gorsuch has a proven track record as a jurist that understands the limits of the Constitution and the powers retained by the states.” Adams added, “Moreover, with his roots in the West, Justice Gorsuch brings an understanding of land- use issues that has long been absent from the high court.”
The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) also welcomed the confirmation of Gorsuch. In a statement, Zippy Duvall, AFBF President, said, “Neil Gorsuch is now a Supreme Court Justice. His undisputed qualifications as a jurist and legal scholar leave no doubt that he is precisely the sort of justice this nation needs. Calm, steady and consistent, Justice Gorsuch has demonstrated time and again that his only goal is to faithfully apply the Constitution and the laws as written by Congress. This is essential to America’s farmers and ranchers as cases affecting their very ability to produce food and fiber reach the nation’s highest court.”
Duvall added, “His confirmation renews our trust that the nation’s highest court will restore constitutional limits to a government that has too often run roughshod over them.”
Gorsuch thanked a number of people at the ceremony and concluded, saying, “And to the American people, I am humbled by the trust placed in me today. I will never forget that ‘to whom much is given, much will be expected.’ And I promise you that I will do all my powers permit to be a faithful servant of the Constitution and laws of this great nation.”
The next session of the Supreme Court begins on April 17. — Rae Price, WLJ Editor