Gorsuch to be sworn in to Supreme Court today in two ceremonies

In Nation
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(Photo: Ricky Cariotti/The Washington Post | Video: Reuters)

Colorado appeals court judge Neil M. Gorsuch will be sworn in as the newest justice of the Supreme Court on Monday, first by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and later at a Rose Garden ceremony with the man who nominated him, President Trump.

At the first, private ceremony in a grand room inside the Supreme Court, Roberts will administer the constitutional oath that all federal employees take. At the White House, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, for whom the 49-year-old Gorsuch once served as a clerk, will lead him through a , to impartially interpret the laws “and do equal right to the poor and to the rich.”

It is the conclusion of a nearly 14-month process to fill the seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, with Republicans winning a bitter battle to ensure his replacement was a like-minded disciple who will restore a conservative majority on the court for years to come.

Gorsuch was confirmed by a 54 to 45 vote on Friday, the closest margin since Justice Clarence Thomas was approved more than 25 years ago. The Republican-controlled Senate did away with the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees to confirm Gorsuch. Democrats said they consider the seat “stolen,” because Republicans refused to act on President Barack Obama’s nominee for the court, Judge Merrick Garland.

(Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

Gorsuch will be put to work immediately. The court meets privately Thursday to consider cases for next term. On the list is a plea that the court decide whether the Second Amendment grants a right to carry firearms outside the home. Another asks whether businesses may refuse to provide wedding services to same-sex couples.

Next week, the court begins its last round of oral arguments for the term. Gorsuch, who in the past has defended the rights of religious objectors to laws they say violate their beliefs, could be the deciding vote in a major separation of church and state case from Missouri.

And it is possible the court may reveal that it is deadlocked on several cases it already has heard this term. The court, with four liberals nominated by Democratic presidents and four mostly conservative justices picked by Republicans, would schedule rehearings in those cases so Gorsuch could break the tie.

And in a matter of weeks, the court might be called upon to get involved in Trump’s second travel ban targeting refugees and those entering the U.S. from certain countries.

In some ways, Gorsuch is the prototypical justice. He is the 109th man to hold office among the 113 justices in the court’s history. All but two of the men were white. He is a favorite of the conservative legal establishment and has family roots in Republican politics.

Like five of his colleagues, Gorsuch attended Harvard Law School — the others went to Yale. He was hired as a Supreme Court clerk by fellow Coloradan Justice Byron White. Because White had retired by then, Gorsuch was loaned to Kennedy for the 1993-94 term.

He becomes the first former clerk to serve on the court alongside his boss.

Gorsuch is different in other ways. Coming from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, he is the court’s only Westerner. Kennedy and Justice Stephen G. Breyer are native Californians, but as Scalia once wrote in an opinion listing the court’s lack of geographic diversity, “California does not count.”

He also provides the court with something it has lacked since 2010: a Protestant. Gorsuch was raised as a Catholic, but he and his family attend an Episcopal church in Boulder. He joins five Catholics and three Jews on the court.

Trump is anxious to celebrate Gorsuch’s success because it is one of the few clear accomplishments of his young administration, uniting Republicans. But the work was mostly done by outside groups and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

Gorsuch was identified as a candidate for the court on a list supplied to the Trump campaign by conservative organizations the Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation. Trump promised during the campaign to choose Scalia’s successor from the 21 names on the list to convince conservatives of the kind of Supreme Court nominations that he would make — an issue of utmost importance to them.

During the confirmation process, Gorsuch said he was first contacted about his candidacy not by the White House but by Leonard Leo, a high-ranking Federalist Society official.

In the months since Trump chose him after a private interview, Gorsuch has been introduced on Capitol Hill by Kelly Ayotte, the New Hampshire senator who lost her reelection bid last November.

He was aided by a $10 million campaign by the Judicial Crisis Network, a group closely aligned with other conservative organizations that defended Gorsuch’s record and targeted Democratic senators in states won by Trump. The group does not disclose its donors, and Democrats during the hearing decried the “dark money” being used to promote Gorsuch.

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