Initial reaction to President Donald Trump's selection of Court of Appeals Judge Neil M. Gorsuch to fill a U.S. Supreme Court seat that's been vacant nearly a year fell along predictable party lines.
Republicans praised the nomination and Democrats criticized it, but a law professor said the bottom line may be a court similar in ideology to the one on which the late Judge Antonin Scalia sat -- one often divided 5-4, with a conservative majority.
The appointment is subject to confirmation by the U.S. Senate, where Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has said Democratic senators may filibuster any candidates that are viewed as "outside the mainstream."
Schumer promised an exhaustive debate, citing serious concerns about the nominee. "Judge Gorsuch has repeatedly sided with corporations over working people, demonstrated a hostility toward women’s rights and, most troubling, hewed to an ideological approach to jurisprudence that makes me skeptical that he can be a strong, independent Justice on the Court," Schumer said in a statement Tuesday evening.
Analysts said Gorsuch's record on the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals is conservative and reflects the philosophy of following the historic meaning of the Constitution, though he hasn't ruled on cases involving emotional issues like abortion.
"Judge Gorsuch is not on record with respect to many hot-button issues, and that may be one of the reasons Trump nominated him," said Albany Law School professor Stephen Gottlieb. "I think we have to assume ideologically he will be a clone of Scalia. As long as his views are reasonably conservative, the court will be doing exactly what it has been doing."
But since Gorsuch is only 49, Gottlieb said that the conservative court could last "many decades." Three judges -- two of them, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, generally considered liberal -- are age 78 or older, increasing the chances they will depart in the next few years.
Gottieb said Gorsuch's rulings appear to be business-friendly. Gottlieb said he has major concerns, however, about how he may rule on voting rights -- on the use of district gerrymandering to maintain a party's political control, and in voting suppression cases."That gives me a lot of concern," he said.
U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, issued a statement alluding to the Senate leadership's refusal throughout 2016 to act on President Obama's nomination of appeals court judge Merrick Garland to the vacancy created nearly a year ago when Scalia -- whom Gorsuch on Tuesday praised as a "lion of the law' -- died unexpectedly.
"After nearly a year of playing political games to avoid appointing one of the most qualified candidates in the history of the Supreme Court, it is past time for Republicans to take this sacred responsibility seriously," Tonko said.
The progressive congressman said it was his "great hope" that the Senate would "carefully scrutinize" Judge Gorsuch's record, and said the lifetime judicial appointment means Gorsuch should be held to the "highest standards of openness, honesty and transparency."
U.S. Rep. John Faso, R-Kinderhook, who was elected to represent the 19th Congressional District last November, praised the selection.
"Judge Gorsuch is highly regarded as a legal scholar, experienced in practical application of the law and possessing the judicial temperament to decide cases based upon the Constitution and the law," Faso said. "As the youngest justice named in 30 years, he will bring new energy and an appreciation for our constitutional system to the nation’s highest court. Judge Gorsuch is a great pick to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia.”
New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedom, which represents the evangelical Christian community, praised the selection. "President Trump has kept his promise to appoint a Supreme Court Justice in the originalist tradition of the late Justice Antonin Scalia," the organization said in a statement.
No schedule has been set for Senate review of the nomination.
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, email@example.com or @gazettesteve on Twitter.