Analysis: Gorsuch Appointment to Supreme Court Would Undermine Climate, Environment, Civil Rights, Social Justice

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Analysis: Gorsuch Appointment to Supreme Court Would Undermine Climate, Environment, Civil Rights, Social Justice

WASHINGTON - U.S. Supreme Court justice nominee Neil Gorsuch’s judicial record demonstrates a pro-corporate, anti-government ideology that will influence cases involving environmental protections, climate change, civil rights and social justice, according to an analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on the confirmation of Judge Gorsuch April 3 following his confirmation hearing and the receipt of his written answers to questions from senators. Despite Gorsuch’s determination to say nothing controversial during the confirmation process, his past rulings and writings demonstrate that his judicial philosophy is out of touch with the values of most Americans and will be profoundly dangerous for the planet’s climate.

“Senate Democrats are right to filibuster Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court. He’s the most dangerous nominee in our lifetime and must be rejected,” said Kierán Suckling, the Center’s executive director. “Senate Republicans stole a Supreme Court seat by refusing to even vote on Judge Merrick Garland for months. Now they’re trying to jam through a nominee who believes that corporations can do no wrong and our government can do no right. If Gorsuch is confirmed, he’s likely to damage and disrupt critical efforts to protect our air, water and climate from corporate pollution.” 

The key to understanding Gorsuch’s disturbing judicial philosophy is his apparent belief that deep-pocketed people and corporations should be allowed to influence elections and Congress with money, potentially without limits. Riddle v. Hickenlooper (2014). Gorsuch equates corporations and human beings under the First Amendment, as he made clear in Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc v. Sebelius (2013). This oddity, consistent with the infamous Citizens United Supreme Court case, which Gorsuch also supports, enables him to implement other anti-democratic judicial positions.

Here are other disturbing revelations from Gorsuch’s record.

Blocking citizens from access to courts: Gorsuch has consistently tried to shut the courtroom doors to ordinary citizens and public-interest organizations seeking to promote environmental protection and the public good. In New Mexico Off-Highway Vehicle Alliance v. U.S. Forest Service (2013), he went out of his way to dissent from a decision allowing the Center and other groups to intervene in a case over the management of national forests. His position, rejected by the majority, would have excluded the public from participation in many cases affecting public lands and natural resources.

Denying workers access to their pay: In a dissent where he displayed his noteworthy sarcasm toward federal administrative agencies and civil servants, Gorsuch would have denied workers extra back pay for work completed elsewhere, even though the employer had unlawfully reduced the available number of hours to work for the worker employee. See N.L.R.B. v. Community Health Services (2016). 

Ignoring Congress and harming disabled children: In Thompson R2 School District v. Luke P (2008), Gorsuch ruled that a student with autism did not have a right under the U.S. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to an education that would provide an opportunity to develop mental and social skills outside the classroom. Just last week the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously overturned Luke P, with even Justices Alito and Thomas deciding that Gorsuch got the plain language of the statute wrong. See Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District (U.S. Supreme Court, March 22, 2017). 

“Despite his smooth rhetoric, Gorsuch’s many decisions and writings reveal a strong bias toward special interests, fossil fuel companies and dark-money organizations,” said Suckling. “Americans who love clean air, clean water and healthy wildlife deserve better.”

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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