Gorsuch takes Supreme Court seat after divisive confirmation

Kari Scott
April 11, 2017

President Donald Trump celebrated a rare domestic achievement on Monday as he watched Neil Gorsuch become the ninth Supreme Court justice - and he used the occasion to give a shout-out to several senators.

The White House event shortly after 11 a.m. followed a private swearing-in two hours earlier at the Supreme Court, where Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. officiated.

The second oath will take place at a public White House ceremony.

The titanic struggle over who would replace Justice Antonin Scalia was nothing if not partisan, and for good reason - the Supreme Court is just as divided as the rest of the nation. He was confirmed by the Senate Friday, after Republicans had refused to consider President Barack Obama's nominee during his previous year in office.

At 11 AM, there will be a public event at the White House, presided over by Justice Anthony Kennedy, and nearly certainly featuring a speech by President Trump praising himself for nominating Justice Gorsuch in the first place.

Little more than two hours later, Gorsuch took the judicial oath administered by Kennedy in the Rose Garden. He is well aware that if he can coax Kennedy off the bench, he can grant conservatives control over the court indefinitely. Gorsuch, who in the past has defended the rights of religious objectors to laws they say violate their beliefs, could be the deciding vote in a major separation of church and state case from Missouri. Gorsuch took the oath with his left hand upon a family Bible held by his wife Louise.

"I will do all my powers permit to be a faithful servant of the Constitution and laws of this great nation", he said. During his Senate confirmation hearing, Gorsuch declined to answer about whether Roe v. Wade and other important court precedents were properly decided. Trump may be able to make further appointments to make the court even more solidly conservative, with three justices 78 or older: Ginsburg, 84; fellow liberal Stephen Breyer, 78; and conservative swing vote Kennedy, 80. It will be administered by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, for whom Gorsuch clerked as a young lawyer.

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Also, Gorsuch wrote a 2000 law journal article and a 2006 book arguing strongly against assisted-suicide laws.

During his confirmation hearing, Gorsuch said his work for the Justice Department should be seen as representing the views of his client - the government - rather than his own.

Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said in a written release the new justice "has demonstrated that he does not respect the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state, which is the foundation of religious freedom in America".

Justice Neil Gorsuch thanked his former law clerks, family and friends as he was sworn into the Supreme Court. Democrats tried to block Gorsuch's nomination Thursday with a procedural filibuster but were met by an historic and unprecedented counter by Republicans.

The nine US Supreme Court justices hold their positions for life.

Gorsuch and his colleagues must also address a case challenging North Carolina's voter identification law, key portions of which were struck down by an appellate court.

Other reports by Guamnewswatch

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