U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch: ‘Just because you disagree, doesn’t mean you have to be disagreeable’

At the Eighth Circuit Judicial Conference in Des Moines on Friday, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch provided insight on his first year on the nation's highest court.


Emily Wangen

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch speaks during the Eighth Circuit Judicial Conference. He discussed his life as a Supreme Court Justice and his friendships with his colleagues.

Julia Shanahan, Politics Reporter

DES MOINES — U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch said he has adopted an overarching theme of “kindness” after his first year on the bench during his remarks on Aug. 17 at the 8th Circuit Judicial Conference.

Gorsuch spoke as Congress considers a U.S. Supreme Court nomination that could set the most solid conservative majority in the court’s recent history. He talked about the relationships formed among his colleagues despite differences in political views and how that affects making decisions and reaching points of agreement.

Gorsuch described the relationships among the other justices as collegial.

“There’s a reason [the cases] are unanimous at 40 percent,” Gorsuch said. “We go around the table, and talk it through as best we can, and figure out where we can agree.”

Gorsuch was nominated by President Trump on Jan. 31, 2017 and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on early April 8 that year. The confirmation process came after Senate Republicans declined to consider former President Barack Obama’s nomination to fill the seat left vacant by U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.

Trump now has an opportunity to fill another U.S. Supreme Court seat following the retirement of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy. He was considered to be the Supreme Court’s swing vote, and Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, has a history of conservative decisions.

Kavanaugh was a White House staff secretary to former President George W. Bush. He has upheld Second Amendment rights when sitting on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and has written that handguns are constitutionally protected because they are most commonly used by law-abiding citizens, according to CNN.

Trump’s travel ban was one of the first major decisions Gorsuch faced as a U.S. Supreme Court justice, and he voted with the 5-4 majority to uphold Trump’s policy.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions also spoke at the conference on Aug. 17 and called the travel ban a misnomer. Instead, he labeled it a travel order handed down by the president that dealt with constitutional structure.

Sessions voiced support for both Gorsuch and Kavanaugh and for Trump other judicial nominations by. He said his department knows the importance of good judges and that a great federal judge has integrity and provides consistency in law.

“[The rule of law] is a wonder of the world,” Sessions said. “It’s a foundation for not only our liberty and freedom but for our prosperity.”

Gorsuch also addressed cases in which he and his colleagues have sharp disagreements.

“These people are your family — you love them. And of course you do not agree on everything, that’s why there are nine of you,” Gorsuch said. “Just because you disagree doesn’t mean you have to be disagreeable.”

The Supreme Court takes on approximately 60 to 70 of the hardest cases in the U.S. every year, he said, and disagreements should be expected.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote in a press release that hearings would begin for Kavanaugh on Sept. 4, and he expects them to last for three to four days.

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