How Trump's Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch's Past Opinions Could Affect Future Cases

When it comes to the Constitution, Gorsuch is an originalist.

March 20, 2017, 5:49 AM

— -- President Trump's pick to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Courts, 49-year-old Judge Neil Gorsuch, begins his confirmation hearings Monday.

"I've selected an individual whose qualities define, really and closely define, what we're looking for: outstanding legal skill, a brilliant legal mind and discipline," Trump said last month during his announcement of the nomination.

"You've trusted me with the most solemn assignment," Gorsuch told Trump. "I am acutely aware of my own imperfections."

"It is for Congress, not the courts, to write new laws," he reflected. "A judge who likes every outcome he reaches is likely a very bad judge."

When it comes to the Constitution, Gorsuch is an originalist -- that is, he believes in interpreting the Constitution as it was understood when it was written.

Gorsuch's judicial record offers some insight on how he might rule on certain issues.

Religious Liberties

When it comes to religious liberties and access to contraception, Gorsuch is a defender of the "Free Exercise Clause," which says Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

Case: Hobby Lobby Stores v. Sebelius and Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged v. Burwell

Issue: The Plaintiffs in both cases argued for an exemption from the contraception mandate in President Obama’s signature health care legislation, the Affordable Care Act, siting religious believes.

Opinion: Gorsuch sided with Christian employers and religious organizations. In the Hobby Lobby case, he wrote, "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.”

Criminal Procedure

Case: United States v. Games-Perez

Issue: The case involved a man who was convicted of a federal crime of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The defendant claimed that he was unaware his past conviction barred him from being in position of a gun.

Opinion: Gorsuch argued for a new hearing but the court disagreed. In his dissent, Gorsuch said the government should have had to prove the defendant knew he was a felon, writing, “This court’s failure to hold the government to its congressionally specified burden of proof means Mr. Games-Perez might very well be wrongfully imprisoned.”

“The government never had to face a trial on this question; it never had to prove its case that Mr. Games-Perez knew of his felon status," Gorsuch added. "It was allowed instead to imprison him without the question even being asked.”

The Fourth Amendment

Case: United States v. Carlos

Issue: Did the police violate a homeowner's Fourth Amendment rights by knocking on the door even though the homeowner had “No Trespassing” signs on his property.

Opinion: Gorsuch dissented from the rest of the court, arguing that the police violated the Fourth Amendment when they entered a home on which a "No Trespassing" sign was posted.

"The Amendment and the common law from which it was constructed leave ample room for law enforcement to do its job," Gorsuch wrote. "A warrant will always do. So will emergency circumstances. After-the-fact consent may suffice if freely given.”

"Our duty of fidelity to the law requires us to respect all these law enforcement tools. But it also requires us to respect the ancient rights of the people when law enforcement exceeds their limits," he added. "In this case the two arguments the government offers to justify its conduct can claim no basis in our constitutional tradition. Not one member of this panel endorses them. And, respectfully, I just do not see the case for struggling so mightily to save the government’s cause with arguments of our own devise -- especially when what arguments we are able to muster suffer so many problems of their own and the benefits of exposing them to at least a modest encounter with the adversarial process seem so obvious."

The Second Amendment

On the issue of guns, Gorsuch has written, "The Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to own firearms and may not be infringed lightly."


When it comes to abortion, there is nothing in his opinions that indicate where he falls on the issue. But in his book "The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia (2006),” he focused on the inherent dignity of human life, writing, "All human beings are intrinsically valuable and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong."

ABC News' Erin Dooley contributed to this report.

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