In nominating Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, President Trump chose a fourth-generation Coloradan to fill the seat left vacant by Justice Scalia's passing last year. Yet even after the two met last week, Colorado's U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet has still not declared his support for Judge Gorsuch's confirmation.
The question every Coloradan should be asking is, "Why?"
It shouldn't be a hard decision. As a judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Gorsuch has written legal opinions that are consistently brilliant, clearly written, and grounded firmly in the Constitution. He demonstrates all the qualities that we want in a Supreme Court justice.
Chief among these is his desire to understand and uphold the law as written. He understands that it is not the role of judges to legislate from the bench, bending the text of the Constitution to fit one's personal preferences. As Judge Gorsuch is fond of saying, "a judge who likes every result he reaches is very likely a bad judge, reaching for results he prefers rather than those the law compels."
This approach has earned Judge Gorsuch a mainstream appeal. In 2006, he was unanimously confirmed to the Tenth Circuit by a voice vote in the U.S. Senate. And a few weeks ago, an acting solicitor general from the Obama administration vouched for his nomination in a New York Times op-ed titled "Why Liberals Should Back Neil Gorsuch."
People of all political leanings will find something to admire in Judge Gorsuch's 10 years of legal opinions. One case involved a 13-year-old boy who was arrested at school when his fake burps disrupted class. His mother sued the police officer and two school officials, claiming her son had been unlawfully arrested. In a lone dissent, Judge Gorsuch sided with the mother. He was not persuaded that the law would permit the arrest of a child when a trip to the principal's office would suffice.
At other times, Judge Gorsuch has raised alarm about giving regulatory agencies - rather than judges - the power to interpret ambiguous laws. This doctrine, he argues, permits "executive bureaucracies to swallow huge amounts of core judicial and legislative power and concentrate federal power in a way that seems more than a little difficult to square with the Constitution of the framers' design."
Sen. Bennet should consider not only Judge Gorsuch's record on the bench but his personal background. Gorsuch may have earned his degrees at Columbia, Harvard, and Oxford, but he remains true to his Colorado roots. He lives with his wife and two daughters on a small farm in Boulder, where he enjoys fly-fishing and skiing.
If confirmed, Judge Gorsuch would be only the second Coloradan to serve on the Supreme Court (the first, Byron White, once employed him as a clerk). He would bring to the Court a personal understanding of the issues that affect Coloradans. The current Supreme Court justices, most of whom have spent their lives in big East Coast cities like New York and Boston, could benefit from his Western perspective.
Although Judge Gorsuch has proven himself worthy of the Supreme Court, partisan voices are already calling for the Senate to filibuster his nomination. Last March, however, Sen. Bennet himself made the case for holding a fair and timely confirmation. "This is not the time to play politics to satisfy our political bases," the senator said in a statement. "The Senate should do its job. How we manage our constitutional duty to provide serious consideration and deliberation to a rare appointment to the nation's highest judicial office will determine whether we deserve the respect of Americans who rightly expect us to exhibit dignity, mutual respect, and wisdom on their behalf."
Judge Gorsuch deserves the support of Sen. Bennet and anyone who cares deeply about the rule of law. At the very least, a nominee of his caliber deserves a fair hearing and a vote.
Michael Fields is the Colorado state director of Americans for Prosperity, the largest free market grassroots organization in the state.