Gor­such dives into fray in first ar­gu­ments on Supreme Court.

Hu­mor, bit of sar­casm rem­i­nis­cent of Scalia

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY MARK SHER­MAN AND SAM HANANEL

Jus­tice Neil M. Gor­such dived into the pub­lic side of his new job Mon­day, pip­ing up early and of­ten as he took his seat on the U.S. Supreme Court bench for the first time to hear ar­gu­ments.

The new jus­tice waited just 11 min­utes be­fore ask­ing ques­tions in the first of three cases the court heard Mon­day, its first ses­sion since Pres­i­dent Trump’s pick was sworn in one week ear­lier.

Jus­tice Gor­such, 49, echoed his own con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing tes­ti­mony with ques­tions fo­cused on the text of fed­eral laws and rules at is­sue be­fore the court. He em­ployed a bit of hu­mor, ex­pressed a mod­icum of hu­mil­ity, showed a hint of ir­ri­ta­tion and even chan­neled Jus­tice An­tonin Scalia, the man he re­placed, with a touch of sar­casm.

“Wouldn’t it be a lot eas­ier if we just fol­lowed the plain text of the statute?” Jus­tice Gor­such asked dur­ing the first ar­gu­ment, a highly tech­ni­cal case about which court fed­eral em­ploy­ees go to with some dis­crim­i­na­tion claims.

That ques­tion sounded a lot like the an­swer Jus­tice Gor­such gave last month, when he was pressed dur­ing his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing to de­fend an opin­ion he wrote against a fired trucker.

“Sen­a­tor, all I can tell you is my job is to ap­ply the law you write,” he said then.

While some of the other jus­tices slouched, rocked back in their chairs or leaned their chin or fore­head on their hands, Jus­tice Gor­such sat straight in his high-backed chair, to the far left of Chief Jus­tice John G. Roberts.

The jus­tices sit by or­der of se­nior­ity, with the two long­est-serv­ing mem­bers of the court flank­ing the chief jus­tice. The two new­est jus­tices sit on ei­ther end of the bench.

The jus­tices had re­moved one chair from the bench after Scalia died more than 14 months ago. Mon­day’s ses­sion was the first since then with the ninth chair re­stored and nine jus­tices present.

Chief Jus­tice Roberts is­sued the stan­dard wel­come for new jus­tices, wish­ing Jus­tice Gor­such “a long and happy ca­reer in our com­mon call­ing.” Jus­tice Gor­such thanked his new col­leagues for their “warm wel­come.”

He shared a laugh with his seat­mate, Jus­tice So­nia So­tomayor, be­fore ar­gu­ments be­gan.

The first case was so dense that even the jus­tices who can wax elo­quent over a mis­placed comma were be­side them­selves.

“Who wrote this statute? Some­body who takes plea­sure out of pulling the wings off flies?” Jus­tice Sa­muel Alito said to laugh­ter.

Jus­tice Gor­such drew a few laughs of his own in an ex­change with lawyer Christo­pher Lan­dau, who is rep­re­sent­ing a for­mer fed­eral worker.

“I think I am maybe em­phat­i­cally agree­ing with you and …” Mr. Lan­dau said.

Jus­tice Gor­such cut in: “I hope so.”

But at another point, when Mr. Lan­dau said his client wasn’t ask­ing the court to break new ground in its de­ci­sion, Jus­tice Gor­such launched a zinger rem­i­nis­cent of Scalia.

“No, just to con­tinue to make it up,” he said. He also apol­o­gized to Mr. Lan­dau for ask­ing so many ques­tions in a row. “I’m sorry for tak­ing up so much time,” Jus­tice Gor­such said.

In the se­cond case, he re­peat­edly tried to elicit an an­swer from lawyer Shay Dvoret­zky.

“If you’d just an­swer my ques­tion, I’d be grate­ful,” Jus­tice Gor­such said, flash­ing frus­tra­tion.

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