What we learned about Neil Gorsuch during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing

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LA Times - Confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominees act out a peculiar Washington ritual in which inquisitive senators gather before TV cameras to hear an aspiring justice politely refuse to answer their questions on all the pressing legal issues of the day.

To no one’s surprise, Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, President Trump’s nominee, portrayed himself as an earnest, idealistic jurist who did not want to “tip his hand” by voicing his views. Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. followed the same script on their way to confirmation, as does virtually every nominee.

But three days of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee revealed some of Gorsuch’s thinking and gave hints as to what kind of justice he could be.

Gorsuch, 49, appears to be a strict “textualist” who believes in following the exact words of a law, even if doing so leads to a seemingly unfair or undesired result.

But he may not be as much of a true “originalist” as the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who advocated following the meaning of the Constitution as it was understood at the time it was written.

When pressed on originalism during his hearing, Gorsuch said constitutional promises like “equal protection of the laws” should be read broadly according to the actual wording, and in light of the court’s precedents, not in line with the views of 1868, when the 14th Amendment was adopted.

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