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From left: Michael Francisco and Roger Butts
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Point, counterpoint: Should the U.S. Senate confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court?

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Michael Francisco
The case for confirming Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court is overwhelming. Coloradoans should be proud that such an exceptionally well qualified, fair and evenhanded judge may soon be deciding the nation’s most important legal controversies.

As a former 10th Circuit clerk for Chief Judge Tymkovich, I have had the good fortune of knowing Judge Gorsuch for a decade and counting him as friend. Judge Gorsuch has an impeccable record of being a principled and compassionate defender of individual rights and the rule of law. A broad coalition of bipartisan lawyers and politicians, including many from Colorado, has unequivocally supported his nomination.

Now more than ever, we need independent Justices who will faithfully interpret the Constitution and respect this nation’s laws as written. Those who are critical of President Trump should be happy to see a judge nominated for the highest court who will not hesitate when called upon to enforce the separation of powers the founders so wisely build into the Constitution.

Judge Gorsuch unflinchingly does what is right. That does not mean we should expect to agree with every decision he may write, nor be happy with every outcome. Interpreting and applying the law should not be mistaken for picking preferred outcomes. As Judge Gorsuch said in his speech accepting the nomination to the Supreme Court, “A judge who likes every outcome he reaches is very likely a bad judge.” Just so. We elect politicians, not justices, to write the law.

The critics of Judge Gorsuch’s nomination have, unfortunately, embraced a mistaken view of judging focused on the results and which party happened to prevail. For example, some political opponents claim that Judge Gorsuch favors big corporations, based on nothing more than a handful of cases Judge Gorsuch has heard where a corporation prevailed. The same critics conveniently fail to mention that in other cases he has heard big corporations have lost. Judge Gorsuch recently reinstated a $920 million jury verdict against Rockwell International and Dow Chemical for environmental contamination at the Rocky Flats nuclear facility in Colorado. If Judge Gorsuch were simply pro-corporation, why that result? Because the judge fairly applied the law.

The point is, cherry picking prevailing parties without any regard for the legal merits of a case is no way to rank a good judge. The other shallow criticisms of Judge Gorsuch based on which party won or lost suffer from the same false view of the role of judges. We need judges to apply and interpret the law regardless of whether the parties are individuals, small businesses or big corporations. That is exactly what Judge Gorsuch has done in several thousand cases he has heard on the 10th Circuit.

In a time of intense political strife, it speaks volumes that prominent Republicans and Democrats, including former Governor Bill Ritter and former Attorney General John Suthers, all agree that Judge Gorsuch is an excellent choice for the Supreme Court. The Senate, including Senators Bennet and Gardner, should swiftly move to confirm Judge Gorsuch.

Roger Butts
Should Judge Gorsuch be confirmed as the next Associate Justice on the Supreme Court? No.

On the one hand, given how much of a con man Donald Trump is, liberals might be grateful that someone qualified has been nominated. Easily one can imagine President Trump nominating the white nationalist Stephen Bannon or Kellyanne Conway, since she’s not doing well on TV these days.

It might also be argued that Gorsuch should be confirmed because the Democrats lost and the Republicans won. To the victors go the spoils, and the Republicans get to select their nominee. After 2020, I have no doubt a Democratic president will have an opportunity to pick a nominee more to our liking. It’s the way it works.

Even so, I urge Senators Bennet and Gardner to vote no.

First, I say reject Gorsuch because of the way the Senate Republicans handled the Merrick Garland nomination. It is painful to consider how blatantly unfairly President Obama was treated. It was an outrage. For 10 months, Senate Republicans stonewalled and blocked Judge Garland’s nomination, all to spite President Obama. The seat was Obama’s to fill, but the Senate Republicans somehow were able to block this while arguing that they couldn’t confirm Obama’s nominee in an election year. We know other nominees have been confirmed in election years. Trump has been given a gift that he never deserved, and the balance of the polarized court will be impacted for a generation or two. GLBT rights, women’s health and reproductive rights, free speech, fair elections and other issues are all in play, and a very ideological conservative will occupy a seat that was Obama’s to fill. I hope that Democrats in the Senate figure out a way to retaliate for this cynical, deceptive power play on the part of Republicans.

Second, I worry that Gorsuch’s “originalist” ideology will put at risk workers’ rights and safety and be damaging to the environment. The executive director of the Sierra Club writes about this nomination: “Gorsuch has proven himself hostile to environmental protection, women’s rights, and the rights of workers and cannot be trusted to protect our air, our water, our communities. … We strongly urge Senators, who are elected to represent and protect the American people, to stand up for families across the nation, oppose this nomination, and use every tool in the shed to block this extremist nominee.”

Third, Gorsuch has consistently ruled against workers and in favor of big corporations. During his campaign, President Trump promised to remember the forgotten, the little guy. Then, of course, he stacked his Cabinet with hard-right, anti-government billionaires from places like Exxon Mobil and Goldman Sachs. To put Gorsuch on the Supreme Court is another poke in the eye to the little guy Trump promised to remember. Gorsuch wants to make it harder to enforce laws that keep our environment clean and safe, that ensures our food is safe, that protects our workers and that safeguards the vulnerable among us.

Neil Gorsuch does not belong on the Supreme Court.

Michael Francisco is an attorney and a Colorado surrogate for Judge Gorsuch’s nomination effort. Roger Butts is a board member of the Center for Religious Diversity and Public Life at UCCS. Both live in Colorado Springs.

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