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Collins’s response

Tue, Apr 4, 2017

HCCN


Here’s the Senator’s response. Just a few comments:
“Neil Gorsuch is not a judge who brings his personal views on any policy issues into the courtroom.” It is interesting that a record 100% favorable to corporations over people is somehow not connected to personal views.
“He was unequivocal that no one in the Administration had asked him for any such promises or to prejudge any matters that could come before him.” Given his record of pro-corporate decisions, his choice by a pro-corporate (almost to the level of fascism, so far) administration hardly needed any such promises.
“I asked Judge Gorsuch how he approaches legal precedents. I asked him if it would be sufficient to overturn a long-established precedent if five current justices believed a previous decision was wrongly decided. He responded: ’emphatically no.'” It’s interesting to think that he doesn’t feel a majority Supreme Court decision is sufficient. What is a SC decision for, then? In any case, don’t look to Gorsuch for help in overturning that marvel of precedent, Citizens United. And what ways he will go about supporting indirectly the neutering of Roe.v.Wade.
“But I have not heard one Senator suggest that Judge Gorsuch lacks the intellectual ability, academic credentials, integrity, temperament, or experience to serve on the Supreme Court.” I’m sure those responsible for Flint’s water supply could have passed muster on all of these points as well. It seems that neither compassion nor the concept of “society’s general welfar” have a place in the worldview of either of these two people.
Sigh. Well, you can make your own judgment. Here she is:
——– Forwarded Message ——– Thank you for contacting me to express your concerns about confirming Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. I appreciate your taking the time to do so.
After meeting with Judge Gorsuch for an hour, evaluating his record, speaking with people who know him personally, and reviewing the Judiciary Committee’s extensive hearing record, I have concluded that Judge Gorsuch is well qualified and should be confirmed to serve on our nation’s highest court.
Judge Gorsuch has sterling academic and legal credentials. In 2006, the Senate confirmed him to his current seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit by voice vote without a single objection being raised. I was further convinced to support his nomination by the fact that the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary unanimously voted to give himits highest rating. I have also received a letter signed by 49 prominent Maine attorneys with diverse political viewpoints, urging support for Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation. Finally, Judge Gorsuch’s record demonstrates that he is well within the mainstream of judicial thought.He has joined more than 2,700 opinions, 97 percent of which were unanimously decided, and he sided with the majority 99 percent of the time. I have included a copy of the statement I made announcing my decision in case it is of interest to you. You can also watch it online here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7lHJ7fM7Lk. Again, thank you for contacting me.
—- Senator Collins Speaks from the Senate Floor in Support of Judge Gorsuch’s Nomination to the Supreme Court
Madam President, confirming a Supreme Court nominee is one of the Senate’s most significant constitutional responsibilities. I come to the floor today to announce that I shall cast my vote for Judge Neil Gorsuch to be a Justice of the United States Supreme Court. In making my decision, I evaluated Judge Gorsuch’s qualifications, experience, integrity, and temperament. I questioned him for an hour in a meeting in my office, evaluated his record, spoke with people who know him personally, and reviewed the Judiciary Committee’s extensive hearing record.While I have not agreed with every decision Judge Gorsuch has made, my conclusion is that he is eminently well-qualified to serve on our nation’s highest court.
Judge Gorsuch has sterling academic and legal credentials. A graduate of Columbia University with honors, he was a Truman Scholar at Harvard Law School, again graduating with honors. After law school, he attended Oxford University as a Marshall Scholar, where he earned his Doctorate of Philosophy.He clerked for Judge David Sentelle on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and for two Supreme Court Justices, Byron White and Anthony Kennedy.Judge Gorsuch then worked as a successful trial and appellate attorney in private practice and served at the Department of Justice. In 2006, the Senate confirmed this outstanding nominee by voice vote to his current seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Judge Gorsuch’s ability as legal scholar and judge has earned him the respect of members of the bar. The American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary has unanimously given him its highest possible rating of “well-qualified.” Neal Katyal, President Obama’s former acting solicitor general, testified before the Judiciary Committee in support of Judge Gorsuch, praising him as fair, decent, and committed to judicial independence. I have also received a letter signed by 49 prominent Maine attorneys with diverse political viewpoints urging support for Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation. They wrote:
Judge Gorsuch’s judicial record demonstrates his remarkable intelligence, his keen ability to discern and resolve the central issues at dispute in a legal proceeding, his notably clear and concise writing style, and his dedication to the rule of law rather than personal predilections. His judicial record also confirms that he is committed to upholding the Constitution, enforcing the statutes enacted by Congress, and restraining overreach by the Executive Branch.
Madam President, in my view, these are precisely the qualities that a Supreme Court Justice should embody. I ask unanimous consent to insert this letter into the record.
Our personal discussion allowed me to assess Judge Gorsuch’s philosophy and character. I told the Judge that it was important to me that the judiciary remain the independent check on the other two branches of government as envisioned by our Founders. Therefore, I asked him specifically whether anyone in the Administration had asked him how he would rule or sought any commitment from him on any issue. He was unequivocal that no one in the Administration had asked him for any such promises or to prejudge any matters that could come before him. He went on to say that the day a nominee answered how he would rule on a matter before it was heard, or promised to overturn a legal precedent, would be the end of the independent judiciary.
During the Judiciary Committee hearing, when Senator Lindsey Graham asked him a similar question about whether he was asked to make commitments about particular cases or precedents, he gave the same answer. In fact, Judge Gorsuch notably said that if someone had asked for such a commitment, he would have left the room because it would never be appropriate for a judge to make that commitment, whether asked to do so by the White House or by a United States Senator.
Neil Gorsuch is not a judge who brings his personal views on any policy issues into the courtroom. If it can be said that Judge Gorsuch would bring a philosophy to the Supreme Court, it would be his respect for the rule of law, and his belief that no one is above the law, including any President or any Senator. I am convinced that Judge Gorsuch does not rule according to his personal views, but rather follows the facts and the law where they lead him – even if he personally is unhappy with the outcome. To paraphrase his answer to one of my questions about putting aside his personal views, he said a judge who is happy with all of his rulings is likely not a good judge. The reverence he holds for the separation of powers, which is at the core of American democracy, was also evident in our discussion.As he reiterated throughout his confirmation hearing, the duty to write the laws lies with Congress, not with the courts or the executive branch.Members of this body should welcome his deep respect for this fundamental principle.
Judge Gorsuch’s record demonstrates that he is well within the mainstream of judicial thought. He has joined more than 2,700 opinions, 97 percent of which were unanimously decided, and he sided with the majority 99 percent of the time. I asked Judge Gorsuch how he approaches legal precedents. I asked him if it would be sufficient to overturn a long-established precedent if five current justices believed a previous decision was wrongly decided. He responded: “emphatically no.” And that, to me, is the right approach. He said a good judge always starts with precedent and presumes that precedent is correct. During his Judiciary Committee hearing, Judge Gorsuch described precedent as “the anchor of the law” and “the starting place for a judge.” He has also co-authored a book on legal precedent with 12 other distinguished judges, for which Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the introduction. There has been considerable discussion over the course of this nomination process about the proper role of the courts in our Constitutional system of government. It is also important, however, to consider the roles that the Executive and Legislative branches play in the nomination process. The President has wide discretion when it comes to his nominations to the Supreme Court. The Senate’s role is not to ask, “Is this the person whom I would have chosen to sit on the bench?”Rather, the Senate is charged with evaluating each nominee’s qualifications for serving on the Court. I have heard opponents of this nominee criticize him for a variety of reasons including his methodology and charges that he is “extreme,” or “outside the mainstream.” But I have not heard one Senator suggest that Judge Gorsuch lacks the intellectual ability, academic credentials, integrity, temperament, or experience to serve on the Supreme Court.
Yet it is exactly those characteristics that the Senate should be evaluating when exercising its advice and consent duty. This is especially true when Senators contemplate taking the extreme step of filibustering a Supreme Court nomination.
Madam President, unfortunately, it has become Senate practice of late to filibuster almost every question before this body simply as a matter of course.But that would be a serious mistake in this case and would further erode the ability of this great institution to function. In 2005, when the Senate was mired in debate over how to proceed on judicial nominations, a bipartisan group of 14 Senators proposed a simple and reasonable standard. The group, of which I was proud to have been a part, declared that for federal court nominations, a Senator should only support a filibuster in the case of “extraordinary circumstances.” In the agreement, the term “extraordinary circumstances” was not defined. Rather, it was left up to each Senator, when exercising his or her responsibility under the advice and consent clause, to act on a good faith basis.
Since coming to the Senate, I have voted to confirm four justices to the Supreme Court, two nominated by a Democratic president and two nominated by a Republican president. Each was confirmed: Chief Justice Roberts by a vote of 78-22; Justice Alito by a vote of 58-42; Justice Sotomayor by a vote of 68-31; and Justice Kagan by a vote of 63-37. Before I became a Senator, this body confirmed Justice Kennedy 97-0; Justice Scalia 98-0; Justice Thomas 52-48; Justice Ginsberg 96-3; and Justice Breyer 87-9.Note that two of the current members of the Court were confirmed by fewer than 60 votes, but – consistent with the standard we agreed to in 2005 – neither one was filibustered.
Even Robert Bork, whose contentious confirmation hearings are said to have been a turning point in the Senate’s treatment of Supreme Court nominations, was rejected by a simple failure to secure a majority of votes, 42 yeas to 58 nays, not by a Senate filibuster. In fact, the filibuster has been used successfully only once in modern history to block a Supreme Court nomination. That was the attempt to elevate Justice Abe Fortas to be Chief Justice in 1968. In that case, Justice Fortas ended up withdrawing under an ethical cloud. The results of the votes on Justice Alito’s nomination are also illuminating. In 2006, Senators voted to invoke cloture by a vote of 72-25. That’s considerably more Senators than those who ultimately voted to confirm him, which was accomplished by a vote of 58-42. Here again, Senators proceeded to a yes-or-no vote on the nomination. I do believe it is appropriate for the Senate to use its advice and consent power to examine nominees carefully, or even to defeat them. In fact, I have voted against judicial nominees of three Presidents.But playing politics with judicial nominees is profoundly damaging to the Senate’s reputation and stature. It politicizes our judicial nomination process and threatens the independence of our courts, which are supposed to be above partisan politics.Perhaps most important, it undermines the public’s confidence in our judiciary.
Since the Founders protected against the exertion of political influence on sitting justices, the temptation to do everything in one’s power to pick nominees with the “right” views is understandably very strong. The more political Supreme Court appointments become, the more likely it is that Americans will question the extent to which the rule of law is being followed. It erodes confidence in fair and impartial justice and cultivates a suspicion that judges are imposing their personal ideology. The Senate has the responsibility to safeguard our nation against a politicized judiciary. The Senate should resist the temptation to filibuster an unquestionably qualified Supreme Court nominee; the temptation to abandon the traditions of comity and cooperation; the temptation to further erode the separation of powers by insisting on judicial litmus tests. It’s time for the Senate to rise above partisanship and allow every Senator to cast an up-or-down vote.
Sincerely,
Susan M. Collins United States Senator
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