After more than a year, the U.S. Supreme Court has a full bench again.
The court has been a man down since the death of Antonin Scalia in February 2016. A conservative force on the court, Scalia left the court balanced at eight members without a firm tip in either direction.
Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation Friday does that, leaning the bench to the right again.
Some Pennsylvanian leaders are OK with that.
“I was proud to join a bipartisan majority of my colleagues in confirming Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court of the United States today. His record indicates that he has the character, intellect and experience to make an excellent addition to the U.S. Supreme Court,” said U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., calling the jurist a “dedicated originalist” who would “neutrally apply the law” regardless of personal opinion.
“Crucially, Judge Gorsuch understands the proper role of a judge is to apply the law, including the U.S. Constitution, as written. He believes that laws mean what they say, not whatever a judge feels they should mean, and that changes to the law are to be made by the American people, acting through the democratic process, not by unelected, unaccountable judges substituting their personal preferences for the judgment of the American people,” he said. “He will not tilt the scales to ensure a politically-favored or sympathetic party wins.”
Others are concerned.
“Confirming Judge Gorsuch will adversely impact workers in Pennsylvania and their families. Judge Gorsuch will now be the tie-breaking vote in many cases that affect workers and his record his clear: that is rigid judicial philosophy leads him to side big corporations and powerful interests over of workers,” said U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa.
Casey also previously expressed concerns over Gorsuch’s record on special education decisions.
Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller called the confirmation “unsurprising based upon the last election.”
“It was very interesting that Gorsuch previously served as a law clerk to Justice (Anthony) Kennedy, and his confirmation will now place him on the highest court in our nation as an equal to him,” she said. “That is a great lesson to law students that you can aspire to any position. I also hope he was sincere when he said he doesn’t give a ‘whit about politics.’ We need real sincerity and less politics in every courtroom to restore the public’s confidence in our system of justice.”
Penn State Law professor Kit Kinports, a former Supreme Court clerk, said a fully-stocked court is important.
“As we all know, the court is fairly divided ideologically,” she said. “The more divided the court is, the more likely it is they won’t be able to decide a case.”
In that event, the ruling of a lower court stands.
“One of the court’s jobs is to resolve conflicts in the law,” she said. “The reason why a lot of committees and groups have an odd number of people to resolve tie votes.”