Although President Donald Trump has selected Judge Neil Gorsuch for the open U.S. Supreme Court seat, John Malcolm said Saturday Gorsuch’s appointment will not make a large difference yet.
“It is important to remember that the Gorsuch appointment is not likely to fundamentally change the balance of power on the court,” Malcolm said.
Malcolm, director of the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at the Heritage Foundation, addressed more than 150 people at Hillsdale College, including Michigan Supreme Court Justice Brian Zahra and Judge Kurt Wilder of the Michigan Court of Appeals, for the founding of the of the Hillsdale Federalist Society.
“As a first event for the Federalist Society we were extremely happy with the attendance, and we think this is a great starting point for future events,” said junior Adrienne Carrier, a Federalist Society officer.
The organization’s goal is to teach the fundamentals of what a free society needs in the legal world, said junior Jacob Weaver, a Federalist Society officer.
In his presentation, Malcolm said if Judge Neil Gorsuch is confirmed, it will only bring the balance of power on the Supreme Court back to what it was before Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016. Both Gorsuch and Scalia had similar approaches to interpreting the law.
“[The Constitution] isn’t some inkblot on which litigants may project their hopes and dreams…but a carefully drafted text judges are charged with applying according to its original public meaning,” Malcolm quoted from Gorsuch.
Many also hope that Gorsuch will follow in Scalia’s footsteps on issues like abortion, Malcolm said.
The two, however, differ on administrative law, Malcolm said. While Scalia believed that courts should defer to executive agencies when interpreting ambiguous laws, Gorsuch believes such deference is an abdication of a judge’s duty to interpret the law and give the executive bureaucracy both legislative and judicial power, Malcolm said.
Students said they are hopeful for what Gorsuch would bring to America’s highest court.
“It was really helpful to hear about Gorsuch from someone familiar with him,” said Lynette Grundvig, a Van Andel Graduate School of Statesmanship student. “It makes me feel more confident about the future of the Supreme Court.”
Malcolm reminded the audience that the Senate has not yet confirmed Gorsuch and the Democrats will likely filibuster.
But 10 Senate Democrats are up for re-election in states that Trump carried, and 12 Democrats voted in 2006 to confirm Gorsuch to the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, Malcolm said. This will make it difficult for them to oppose Gorsuch’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.
Although the Gorsuch appointment will not profoundly alter the balance of power on the court, a future opening could, Malcolm said.