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gorsuch

Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch stands during a group photo of the Justices at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. on April 23, 2021. (Photo: Erin Schaff/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The Contempt of the Gorsuch Family

Neil sees no reason to encumber his very attractive appearance with a mask even though CDC suggestions clearly suggest that wearing a mask in those circumstances would be appropriate.

Christopher Brauchli

The apple never falls far from the tree—Proverbial Saying

Neil and his deceased mother, Anne, like virtually all children and parents, shared many qualities. In the case of Neil and Anne, one of the shared qualities is contempt for others.

In Anne's case it demonstrated itself in her lack of respect for Congress and environmental regulations. In Neil's case it demonstrated itself in his public demonstration of contempt for CDC recommendations about the value of being masked in certain situations. First things first.

Anne Gorsuch was appointed to head the Environmental Protection Agency by Ronald Reagan in 1981. She was the first woman appointed to that position and held it from May 20, 1981 until March 9, 1983. She demonstrated her contempt for the Agency she had been appointed to lead by effecting sharp budget cuts, reducing the number of cases filed against polluters, and filling various departments within the agency with subordinates she recruited from industries the EPA was supposed to regulate.

According to a story in the Washington Post on September 30, 1981, budget cuts implemented by Anne stripped 3,200 personnel of their jobs and were so massive that, according to agency sources "they [the cuts] could mean a basic retreat on all the environmental programs of the past 10 years. . "

In 1982 Congress demanded that the EPA turn over some of its records to the Committee that was investigating the alleged mishandling of a $1.6 billion toxic waste fund. Anne refused to hand over the records and, as a result, was cited for being in contempt of Congress. In March 1983, Anne resigned as head of the EPA after a tenure that had lasted less than 2 years during which she repeatedly showed her contempt not only of Congress but of the goals of the EPA. Neil is faithfully following in his mother's footsteps.

Some members of the Supreme Court are concerned about the possible spread of the Omicron variant within the Supreme Court building. Accordingly, in information distributed to attorneys entering the building the "Court asks that attorneys wear masks that cover the nose and mouth at all times within the Court building, except when actively eating or drinking." When waiting their turn to address the Court during hearings those not speaking are required to be masked at all times.

The mask requirement does not, of course, apply to Justices of the United States Supreme Court as Neil has shown. Without out so much as setting pen to paper and writing an opinion in which he expresses his contempt for one position or another in arguments presented to the Court, Neil has demonstrated contempt for suggestions from the CDC and others that those with medical issues as well as those without such issues may be well served if people with whom they interact are masked when in proximity to them.

One of Neil's colleagues, Justice Sonia Sotomayor is concerned about the possibility of being infected with Covid-19. Justice Sotomayor has diabetes and that puts her at a high risk for serious consequences should she become infected with the omicron variant. According to news reports, as the number of Covid-19 cases increased during December, Justice Sotomayor informed her colleagues that she did not feel safe being around people who were unmasked. That did not, apparently, make an impression on Neil. Since the first of the year all of the Justices except for Neil, have been wearing masks when sitting on the bench in the United States Supreme Court. Neil sees no reason to encumber his very attractive appearance with a mask even though CDC suggestions clearly suggest that wearing a mask in those circumstances would be appropriate.

As an apparent result of Neil's public display of mask contempt, since the first of the year Justice Sotomayor has avoided participating in Supreme Court proceedings and conferences in person. Instead, she has participated remotely. It is not possible to know whether, if Neil abandoned his public display of his contempt for use of the mask and began wearing one during Court proceedings, Justice Sotomayor would once again participate in person. It is also not possible to know whether if Neil abandoned his public display of contempt for the mask suggestion from the CDC it would encourage other skeptics of the CDC recommendations to follow that entity's recommendations thus, perhaps, helping to slow the spread of the variant. What it is possible to know, and what the absence of his mask does unquestionably show, is that Neil has contempt for the suggestions from the CDC vis a vis the usefulness of masks. He is, after all, a Justice on the United States Supreme Court and there is no reason he has to be considerate of his colleagues nor observe a rule for which he has obvious contempt. He is his mother's son. Anne would be proud.


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Christopher Brauchli

Christopher Brauchli

Christopher Brauchli is a Common Dreams columnist and lawyer known nationally for his work. He is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Colorado School of Law where he served on the Board of Editors of the Rocky Mountain Law Review. For political commentary see his web page at humanraceandothersports.com.

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