The Life of Neil Gorsuch

Events

Graduated with B. A. from Columbia University

1988

Law clerk for U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. Circuit

1991 - 1992

Graduated with J.D. from Harvard Law School

1991

Law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy

1993 - 1994

Private practice with the law firm of Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel

1995 - 2005

Graduated with a D.Phil in Law from Oxford University

2004

Principal deputy to associate attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice

2005 - 2006

Judge for 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

2006 - 2016

Am. Atheists, Inc. v. Davenport

2010

-Issue: religious freedom

-Summary of case: The Utah Highway Patrol Association (UHPA) began a project to commemorate UHP troopers killed while on duty by erecting 12-foot tall white crosses near the locations of their deaths. A group of atheists sued, saying that the placement of a Christian symbol on public property was against the Constitution.

-Decision: The court held that the memorial crosses on the side of public roads violated the establishment clause by the government endorsing Christianity.

-Gorsuch's action: He dissented from denial of rehearing en banc. In his dissenting opinion, he wrote, “So it is that we must now apparently account for the speed at which our observer likely travels and how much attention he tends to pay to what he sees. We can’t be sure he will even bother to stop and look at a monument before having us declare the state policy permitting it unconstitutional.”

United States v. Games-Perez

2012

-Issue: gun possession

-Summary of case: A federal law prohibits a felon from knowingly possessing a gun. Miguel Games-Perez possessed a gun after being convicted of a felony, but claimed he did not know he was convicted of a felony.

-Decision: The court held there was enough evidence for a conviction because Games-Perez knowingly possessed a gun, whether he did or did not know he was a felon.

-Gorsuch’s action: Gorsuch dissented and encouraged the panel to grant a rehearing. He argued the felon needed to know that he possessed the gun and was a felon in order to be criminally charged. In his dissent, he wrote, “Gun possession is often lawful and sometimes even protected as a matter of constitutional right.”

Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. v. Sebelius

2013

-Issue: religious freedom

-Summary of case: Hobby Lobby’s owners argued that the Affordable Care Act’s requirement to cover contraceptives with the health insurance provided to employees went against their religious beliefs.

-Decision: The court ruled 5-3 in favor of Hobby Lobby.

-Gorsuch's action: In a concurring opinion, Gorsuch wrote, “As the Greens explain their complaint, the ACA’s mandate requires them to violate their religious faith by forcing them to lend an impermissible degree of assistance to conduct their religion teaches to be gravely wrong.”

Eizember v. Trammell

2015

-Issue: death sentence

-Summary of case: Scott Eizember was given the death penalty in a state court for killing his ex-girlfriend’s father. He engaged in a crime spree that also included trying to kill his ex-girlfriend's brother by shooting him twice, beating his ex-girlfriend’s mother, holding the family hostage, and then stealing a car and beating up another couple while trying to run. Eizember appealed to the 10th Circuit Court because he believed they were biased in favor of the death penalty.

-Decision: The court upheld the death penalty.

-Gorsuch's action: In the opinion of the court, Gorsuch upheld Eizember’s death penalty sentence by citing a precedent set by the Supreme Court in jury selection for death penalty cases. He stated exceptions should only be made in extreme circumstances, which didn’t apply in the instance.

Guttierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch

2016

-Issue: administrative law

-Summary of case: Hugo Rosario Guttierrez-Brizuela was trying to change his immigration status based on a rule that the attorney general is allowed to review applications of non-citizens who reentered the U.S. illegally and are then barred from the country for 10 years. This rule was upheld by a 10th Circuit court on 2005. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) denied Guttierrez-Brizuela’s application to adjust his immigration status because of a 2007 rule of the agency. He then sued U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch for the denial of his application.

-Decision: The court unanimously held that Guttierrez-Brizuela could rely on the ruling and law that applied at the time in 2005.

-Gorsuch’s action: He wrote the opinion and also concurred separately. The opinion stated that agencies can not overturn court rulings. In his concurrence, he also warned over concerns of constitutional separation of powers if the law is interpreted to defer agencies interpretations of their own rules.

Confirmed as the 113th Supreme Court Justice

2017