“Confident and Assertive, Gorsuch Hurries to Make His Mark”

Adam Liptak NYT Sidebar:

Justice Robert H. Jackson rejected Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes’s estimate of three years to “get acclimated,” saying it was “nearer to five.”

Judging by Justice Gorsuch’s early opinions, he is fully acclimated.

In June alone, in addition to his only majority opinion of the term, he wrote seven others: three dissents, three concurrences and a statement urging the court to take up a legal question “at its next opportunity.” By comparison, Justice Elena Kagan, the next most junior justice, wrote seven dissents and concurrences in her first two terms.

Justice Gorsuch cheered his supporters with conservative votes on President Trump’s travel bangun rightsmoney in politics, the separation of church and state and the sweep of the court’s 2015 decision establishing a right to same-sex marriage.

But his most forceful statements came in otherwise forgettable decisions.

Adam’s column is in line with my own view from my oped in last week’s LA Times:

Usually it takes a few years to get the full sense of a new justice. The job provides awesome power, and new justices often are reluctant to issue stark opinions or stake out strong positions early on. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, for example, were at first cautious on campaign finance and voting rights issues. Only later did they sign on to blockbuster decisions like 2010’s Citizens United campaign finance case (allowing corporations to spend unlimited sums in elections) or 2013’s Shelby County voting case (in effect killing off a key Voting Rights Act provision).

Not so with Gorsuch. In a flurry of orders and opinions issued Monday, Gorsuch went his own way. The majority affirmed the right of same-sex parents to have both their names appear on birth certificates, but Gorsuch dissented. The majority chose not to hear a challenge to California’s public carry gun law, thus leaving it in place, but Gorsuch dissented. Gorsuch also wrote separately in the Trinity Lutheran case, on whether a parochial school may take government money for playground safety equipment. The court found in favor of the school, but Gorsuch went even further to the right in endorsing the government’s ability to aid religious organizations. This followed his dissent with Justice Clarence Thomas a few weeks ago over the court’s failure to consider overturning the “soft money ban” in the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law.


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