The White House hopes the bond matters to Justice Kennedy, too. In choosing Judge Gorsuch to replace Justice Antonin Scalia and floating the names of other former Kennedy clerks for the next Supreme Court vacancy, administration officials have sought to reassure Justice Kennedy, 80, that the court will be in good hands should he choose to retire and open a seat for another, younger justice.
While Judge Gorsuch learned a great deal in Justice Kennedy’s chambers, the lessons seem to have been more personal than political.
“There were a lot of ideologues both left and right, and he wasn’t one of them,” said Stephen F. Smith, who served as a law clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas that same term and is now a law professor at the University of Notre Dame. “He was careful, quiet.”
Judge Gorsuch’s critics say his own mild and courteous manner masks a fierce commitment to a right-wing agenda, and political scientists say he is likely to vote with the court’s most conservative justices rather than with Justice Kennedy. In closely divided cases, Justice Kennedy often holds the crucial vote, and he generally leans right. He wrote the majority opinion, for instance, in the Citizens United campaign finance case.
But in recent years, Justice Kennedy has joined the court’s four-member liberal wing in major cases establishing a right to same-sex marriage, protecting abortion rights and upholding affirmative action.
“It’s safe to say that little of Justice Kennedy rubbed off on him when it comes to certain critical areas of the law,” Nan Aron, the president of the Alliance for Justice, a liberal group, said of Judge Gorsuch.
From me earlier in the week at CNN opinion, Why Gorsuch Could Lead Court in the Wrong Direction.