Justice Gorsuch expected to oppose N.C. voting rights
BY CASH MICHAELS
FOR THE CHRONICLE
Last Monday morning, Judge Neil Gorsuch, nominated by Pres. Donald Trump, was sworn-in as the nation’s 113th associate justice to the United States Supreme Court.
After a bruising Senate confirmation process that saw Senate Democrats oppose Gorsuch for his strict conservative record of rulings from the federal bench, the Republican majority changed the rules so that Gorsuch could win appointment by a simple 51-vote majority, instead of the standard 60-vote threshold. He took his seat Monday, replacing the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died 14 months ago.
Several progressive groups opposed Justice Gorsuch during his nomination process. Here in North Carolina, several legal experts are now also alarmed that the U.S. Supreme Court – which is soon scheduled to rule on at least two North Carolina voting rights and redistrict-ing issues – is right-leaning again with Gorsuch’s addition.“Justice Gorsuch’s
prior record demonstrates that he will likely be hostile to traditional civil rights issues as a Supreme Court justice,” said Kami Chavis, a professor of law and director of the Criminal Justice Program at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem. “Many civil rights organizations, including NAACP LDF (Legal Defense Fund) have opposed him, stating his restrictive access justice approach. He has consistently ruled against those requesting relief in capital punishment cases and employment discrimination cases.”
A veteran legal veteran of civil rights agrees.
“Judge Gorsuch was nominated by Donald Trump and presented for that position solely because he is expected to vote to support the established right-wing political agenda,” Professor Irving Joyner of the North Carolina Central University School of Law in Durham, says. “He may be qualified in a professional sense, but the paramount basis for his support from the Republican Party is that he is right-wing and is expected to oppose a progressive view of the protection of individual rights, which are embedded in the U.S. Constitution.”
“Gorsuch is advertised and touted as a judicial re-incarnation of the arch-conservative Antonin Scalia, who regularly voted against the interests of African- Americans and people of color,” Professor Joyner continued. “As such, he is expected to vote in support of legislative efforts to suppress the rights of people to register and vote, against the rights of people to protest and assemble to voice objections to governmental policies and against efforts to expand protections for the powerless and disfranchised portions of our society.
“It is because of Gorsuch’s past judicial opinions, which are supportive of this right- wing political agenda, that he is presented now as the “new darling” of the Republican Party,” Professor Joyner concluded.
But another professor of Law at Wake Forest University suggests based on his own review, Justice Gorsuch may not be so predictable.
“My sense of Judge Gorsuch is formed only by those of his circuit court opinions I have read,” says Shannon Gilreath, professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies. “Basically, I feel he is not as bad of a choice as could have been made. He certainly isn’t the best, either, from a progressive perspective. He is a soundly conservative vote on most questions.”
“In some areas, as in the rights of criminal defendants, he may be even more reactionary that Justice Scalia, who tended to be fairly protective of defendants’ rights. My assumption is that Gorsuch will be a vote in favor of the further disenfranchisement of African-Americans at the polls. Gorsuch also has a disturbing record when it comes to women’s rights, particularly reproductive rights, which are in my view African-American rights.”
Professor Gilreath continued, “For gay African-Americans, Gorsuch may offer a glimmer of hope of improvement over Scalia. Reports are that Gorsuch has been enthusiastically, albeit privately, supportive of same-sex marriage. “
“Finally,” Professor Gilreath concluded, “I’ll say that all predictions of what a Supreme Court justice may do must be taken with a grain of salt. David Souter, a George H.W. Bush appointee, proved a reliably liberal vote. And Anthony Kennedy, who came to the Court as a Reagan appointee after the disastrous nomination of Robert Bork, has been the architect of every major gay rights decision authored by the Court –most notably the Obergefell decision holding the right of gay couples to marry to be a constitutional right.”