BY STATE SENATOR JAMES SANDERS JR.
President Donald Trump was in the unique position of further shaping the direction of our country by nominating a Supreme Court Justice. The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land and is the final interpreter of federal constitutional law. With his selection of Neil Gorsuch, 49, a federal appellate judge from Colorado to succeed Antonin Scalia, as the 113th member of the Supreme Court, Trump seems to have secured a strong voice for conservatives.
However, even before we examine anything about Gorsuch or his views, the very act of his nomination and confirmation is considered controversial and unfair by many Democrats. It was President Obama’s constitutional duty, initially and rightfully, not Trump’s, to nominate someone to succeed Scalia. Obama chose Judge Merrick Garland, but the Senate Republicans would not conduct any hearings or allow a confirmation vote. They refused to carry out their constitutional obligation, or in other words, to do their jobs. They were dead set on waiting for the next President to make the Supreme Court choice and they were not budging.
Republican leadership has presented Gorsuch to the American public as a scholarly and responsible jurist, but anyone concerned about civil rights, women’s rights and a just society should fear his arrival on the bench, a position he could potentially hold for decades.
In an online article for the National Review in 2005, Gorsuch wrote that “American liberals have become addicted to the courtroom.” While he has agreed with some civil rights decisions, like the Brown v. Board of Education ruling of the Warren court, which ended public school segregation, he has also argued that liberals have gone too far in their use of the courtroom “as a primary means of effecting their social agenda.”
When it comes to controversial Supreme Court rulings such as Roe v. Wade’s protection of abortion, Gorsuch said he would be reluctant to overturn any decision that the court has previously made. However, Gorsuch has a long history of ruling against employees in cases involving federal race, sex, age, disability and political discrimination and retaliation claims. This is particularly disturbing since he could act as the tie-breaking conservative on a number of issues, covered by cases currently pending before the court, cases that involve the protection of religious freedom, LGBT rights, gun control and labor laws.
Affecting New York on a local level, Gorsuch could vote to weaken public sector unions. Right now, there is a legal controversy around the right of states to mandate that non-union public employees pay dues. Some states, including New York, mandate these dues, called “agency fees,” because public unions negotiate not only on behalf of their members but also for all employees. Thus, without an agency fee, an employee could opt out of joining the union and get a free ride on its negotiating efforts. A ruling against agency fees would further strengthen the hand of anti-union groups, which have been using "right-to- work" laws to reduce union membership since the 1940’s.
Since Gorsuch’s ultra conservative views could negatively impact an entire generation as he plays a role in deciding the court cases that will shape the future landscape of our nation, we must make sure that he represents the interests of all Americans and does not simply bend to the will of the powerful. With Gorsuch on the bench, there is cause for alarm that justice will not get a fair hearing in America.