There was a lot of dissembling when Justice Gorsuch was nominated to the Supreme Court, that he was some kind of blank slate, without preconceived ideas about how he would rule as a Supreme Court Justice. Of course, this was a ruse to blunt public criticism. Many of us knew that he would be a very conservative Justice—the only question is if he will be more like Scalia, Thomas, or Alito.
J. Gorsuch has been on the Court only a few months, and only heard one month’s worth of oral arguments. But today, on the last day of the Supreme Court’s term, we got a very good indication he will be most like Justice Scalia, and often voting with Justices Thomas and Alito, making Justice Gorsuch one of the most, or most, conservative Justices. We also got indications (from the fact that he wrote four separate opinions related to orders today, and joined a fifth–by Justice Thomas) that he will not be shy about getting the Court involved in the most sensitive issues, from gun rights to gay rights. He will not be like Chief Justice Roberts in considering institutional legitimacy and comity.
Already today, Justice Gorsuch dissented from the partial stay in the travel ban case, dissented from a gay rights case involving the right of same sex parents to be on birth certificates, and dissented from the Court’s decision not to hear a law involving a California concealed carry gun law. Justice Gorsuch also wrote separately in the Trinity Lutheran case to take a position further than the Court on the ability of the government to aid religion.
Finally, and what makes me think Justice Gorsuch will be more like Scalia than Alito or Thomas is Justice Gorsuch’s pro-criminal defendant statement in the Hicks case, over Chief Justice Roberts’ dissent. Justice Scalia, while very conservative, had a pocket of pro-criminal defendant cases. I expect Gorsuch to have the same.
But on most of the issues that get the greatest public attention—abortion, gay rights, voting rights, gun rights, federal power–I expect Justice Gorsuch to be on the far right of the Court. And given his age, he’s likely to be there for a generation or more.