The Dallas Morning News

Gorsuch joins Supreme Court

In victory for Trump, he fills seat left empty more than a year ago

- By JORDAN RUDNER Washington Bureau jrudner@dallasnews.com Twitter: @jrud

Justice Neil Gorsuch and his wife, Marie Louise, left his swearing-in ceremony Monday in the Rose Garden. “I have no doubt that you will go down as one of the truly great justices in the history of the Supreme Court,” President Donald Trump told Gorsuch. He was sworn in during the ceremony by Justice Anthony Kennedy, for whom he once served as a law clerk.

WASHINGTON — With a wide grin on his face, Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch took the judicial oath in a Monday morning ceremony at the White House. Gorsuch fills the seat that was left empty more than a year ago by the death of Antonin Scalia.

Gorsuch took his first oath, to support the Constituti­on, earlier Monday morning at a private ceremony at the Supreme Court building. The judicial oath, which he took in the Rose Garden, was delivered by Justice Anthony Kennedy, for whom Gorsuch once worked as a clerk.

This is the first time in history that a former Supreme Court clerk will serve alongside the justice for whom he clerked.

At the sunny ceremony, President Donald Trump celebrated his most significan­t win since taking office in January — the appointmen­t of a Supreme Court justice. Gorsuch is 49, and a seat on the Supreme Court is a lifetime appointmen­t.

“Spring is really the perfect backdrop for this joyful gathering of friends, because together we are in the process of reviewing and renewing, and also rebuilding, our country,” Trump said. “A new optimism is sweeping across our land.”

Trump also thanked Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for “all that he did to make this possible.” After Scalia’s death, McConnell took on a bold strategy to keep the seat open through the duration of President Barack Obama’s final year.

McConnell’s strategy, which included refusing to hold any hearings on Obama nominee Judge Merrick Garland, paid off when Trump won the election.

And last week, McConnell and other Senate Republican­s voted to take the so-called “nuclear option,” permanentl­y changing the way Supreme Court nomination­s are voted on, in order to get Gorsuch confirmed. He was confirmed by a 54-45 vote Friday.

Trump noted that the appointmen­t of a Supreme Court justice is one of the most influentia­l decisions a president makes, and he expressed confidence in his choice.

“I have no doubt that you will go down as one of the truly great justices in the history of the Supreme Court,” Trump told Gorsuch.

“And I got it done in the first 100 days!” he added, laughing. “You think that’s easy?”

Gorsuch expressed appreciati­on for his good fortune at the Rose Garden ceremony.

“This process has reminded me just how outrageous­ly blessed I am,” he said.

Since Scalia’s death in 2016, the eight justices have largely avoided cases where they would be likely to split 4-4.

When justices tie for any reason, the judgment of the most recent lower court to hear the case is automatica­lly upheld, but no broader precedent is establishe­d.

Now that the Supreme Court’s vacancy has been filled and nine justices are seated, they could be more willing to take up those controvers­ial cases.

Gorsuch might provide the key fifth vote on a major case as early as next week. On April 19, the justices will hear arguments in Trinity Lutheran Church vs. Comer, a case about whether religious institutio­ns have the right to receive money from secular federal government grant programs.

Legal experts say there’s a high chance the five Republican­appointed justices will rule in favor of the church, which could open the door to more government funding for religious institutio­ns’ initiative­s.

“That’s a case where his vote could be determinat­ive,” said Joseph Kobylka, a Supreme Court expert at Southern Methodist University. “He could have a dramatic effect.”

Beyond his voting responsibi­lities, Gorsuch also assumes the title of “most junior justice,” taking over from Justice Elena Kagan, who joined the court in 2010.

The most junior justice has a host of responsibi­lities, including serving on the court’s cafeteria committee and opening and closing the door when the justices are in private conference.

Kagan has already filled Gorsuch in on his new duties, which she speculated are a way of “humbling people.”

Gorsuch will hear his first cases on Monday.

 ?? Al Drago/The New York Times ??
Al Drago/The New York Times

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