Federal Judge Neil Gorsuch is likely to further conservative goals for the next 30 years if he is appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, a UCLA law professor said.
On Jan. 31, President Donald Trump nominated Gorsuch, who has served in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit since 2006, to fill Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court.
Scalia died Feb. 13, 2016, and his death left the remaining four liberal-leaning and four conservative-leaning justices without a tiebreaker.
Adam Winkler, a law professor who specializes in American constitutional law, said he thinks having only eight justices has profoundly impacted Supreme Court rulings.
“The justices have divided four-four on some very controversial issues, such as the legal rights of public employee unions and affirmative action,” Winkler said. “They have also avoided taking certain cases, because they were only eight justices, for fear that they wouldn’t reach a decision.”
He said he thinks Gorsuch, who is known to be a judicial conservative, would likely curtail business regulations, public employee union rights and affirmative action if he is confirmed. Winkler added he thinks Gorsuch would support increasing criminal defendant rights and overturning the Roe v. Wade precedent, which gave women the right to abortion.
Winkler also said Gorsuch would likely oppose the ability of government to interpret federal statutes.
When Congress passes a law, it allows government agencies to define the scope of those laws and clarify any ambiguities, Winkler said. However, some worry Gorsuch believes courts, not government agencies, should have the power to define the scope of the law, which could impact business regulatory policies.
Republicans currently hold a 52-seat majority in the Senate, which is enough to officially confirm Gorsuch.
However, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has called on Democratic senators to filibuster Gorsuch, or to intentionally stall the vote to approve him. Forty-four Democratic senators have said they would filibuster.
Republicans can call for a cloture vote, which can overrule a filibuster if it attains a three-fifths majority vote in the Senate. Because Republicans hold 52 seats, they would have to convince eight Democrats to overturn a filibuster.
If Democrats filibuster Gorsuch, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans would invoke the “nuclear option,” which would allow him to change the voting requirement to end a filibuster from 60 to 51.
However, the nuclear option could make confirming Gorsuch and any other future Supreme Court Justices easier. As a result, Trump and any other future presidents could be less incentivized to pick judges that appeal to both sides of the political spectrum.
Student political groups expressed support for their respective parties’ positions.
“The majority of Bruin Democrats supports the Senate filibuster,” said Chad Cracraft, the Bruin Democrats external vice president. “I think Democrats are pretty unanimously opposed to the kind of jurisdiction we think Judge Gorsuch is going to bring to the bench.”
Bruin Republicans President Alexis Moran said the group fully supports Gorsuch’s nomination and looks forward to his congressional confirmation to the Supreme Court.
The Senate is likely to hold its final vote Friday.