Supreme Court Nominations

Gorsuch confirmation hearings, Day 4: He is portrayed as empathetic, yet bad for the little guy

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ABA testimony.

Nancy Scott Degan and Shannon Edwards testify for the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary. U.S. Senate photo.

The Senate Judiciary Committee wrapped up its hearings on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch on Thursday with testimony offering competing views of the judge.

Former law clerks and judges who worked with Gorsuch on the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals praised his kindness, empathy and collegiality. Representatives of liberal groups, on the other hand, portrayed Gorsuch as a judge who rules against the little guy and relies on the Oxford English Dictionary rather than common sense in applying laws designed to protect workers.

Liberals also raised concerns about Gorsuch’s role in defending terrorism policies of the George W. Bush administration when he was principal deputy associate attorney general. Gorsuch has previously said he was acting as a lawyer for the government and not a policymaker while at the Justice Department in 2005 and 2006.

During the testimony on Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., announced plans for a filibuster of the nomination. Schumer said he wasn’t convinced that Gorsuch would be an independent check on President Trump and said he had “a deep-seated conservative ideology.”

Two representatives of the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary were the first to testify on Thursday. The chair, Nancy Scott Degan, said the committee gave its highest rating of well-qualified rating to Gorsuch after reviewing more than 900 pages of materials. “We do not give the well-qualified rating lightly,” she said. A statement prepared by the ABA is here (PDF).

The committee is planning a vote April 3.

3:56 p.m. ET. The hearing is adjourned.

3:26 p.m. ET. Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, asked whether originalism would have produced the decisions in a series of cases, including Lawrence v. Texas, Loving v. Virginia, and Obergefell v. Hodges. For each case she listed, University of North Carolina law professor William Marshall answered “no.”

3;20 p.m. ET. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., asked Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, about Gorsuch’s testimony regarding the Voting Rights Act.

Clarke said she was deeply troubled by Gorsuch’s refusal to disavow a comment by Justice Antonin Scalia during oral arguments in the Shelby County case. Scalia had said the reauthorized Voting Rights Act was the “perpetuation of racial entitlement.”

3:02 p.m. ET. Jamil Jaffer, a former Gorsuch law clerk, said Gorsuch cares about people, including his family, friends and the parties who appear before him. He applies the law fairly, and has often ruled for the little guy, he said.

The notion that Judge Gorsuch is somehow not capable of being an even-handed judge is wrong, he said.

2:56 p.m. ET. Sandy Phillips, whose daughter, Jessica, died in the Aurora, Colorado, theater massacre, talked to the committee about the need for the Supreme Court to recognize Second Amendment limits.

“Our Second Amendment begins with the phrase ‘a well regulated,’ but guns are not well regulated,” she told the committee.

Phillips said “a small number of extremists” were pushing courts to accept a gun-lobby backed version of the Second Amendment. Cases pushing radical views could make their way to the Supreme Court, she said.

The committee needs to know whether Gorsuch believes the Second Amendment has limits, she said.

2:49 p.m. ET. Former Gorsuch law clerk Tim Meyer, now a Vanderbilt law professor, praised Gorsuch as a mentor and a decent person. And Gorsuch taught Meyer a great deal about writing, Meyer said.

The judge spent hours just writing the introductory paragraphs of his opinions, Meyer said. He thought nonlawyers and litigants should be able to understand court cases, he said.

Meyer said Gorsuch had great respect for litigants, and also felt it important that prisoners who submitted petitions to the court receive an opinion.

2:44 p.m. ET. University of North Carolina law professor William Marshall said originalism is a relatively new concept. The Constitution uses broad words, and they are not easily given a fixed meaning, he said.

The framers were visionaries concerned with setting forth broad principles for future generations, Marshall said. Though originalism pledges fealty to the framers, it actually is in opposition to the framers’ vision, he said.

Originalism is fundamentally at odds with who we are as a nation, Marshall said. And it has been used to manipulate results, so that it does not actually give a fixed meaning to the Constitution, he said.

2:38 p.m. ET. Hannah Smith, senior counsel of the religious liberty group Becket, said her group had reviewed religious liberty cases in which Gorsuch wrote an opinion or cast a vote. Every time the Supreme Court reached the merits in a case in which Gorsuch was involved, his position was vindicated, she said.

Gorsuch has protected the rights of religious minorities and prisoners seeking religious access, she said. In one case, Gorsuch ruled for a Native American prisoner seeking access to a sweat lodge. In another, he ruled on behalf of a Muslim prisoner objecting to the prison diet.

In his cases interpreting the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Gorsuch ruled in favor of litigants with religious objections, Smith said.

2:32 p.m. ET. Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, said justices are needed who oppose unnecessary obstacles to the constitutional right to abortion. “Neil Gorsuch is not that judge,” she said.

Gorsuch has refused to answer basic questions about the right to privacy and Roe v. Wade, she said.

2:27 p.m. ET. Latham & Watkins partner Alice Fisher said Gorsuch had mentored her, and he appeared to care about her success as much as his own. He is devoted to his country and public service, and he comports himself with deep humility, she said.

Gorsuch has a keen intellect and holds himself to the highest standard of excellence, she said. He is a man with the highest personal integrity, she added.

2:25 p.m. ET. Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, said that, time and time again, Gorsuch “employed a dangerous brand of originalism” that ignores lives that are touched.

Gorsuch has questioned the court’s recognition of the right of personal autonomy that has served as a cornerstone for multiple gay rights cases, she said.

Warbelow pointed to a Gorsuch ruling against a transgender woman working for a community college who was fired for refusing to use the men’s restroom.

Other rulings by Gorsuch, such as his Hobby Lobby decision, have been used to embrace discrimination against LGBTQ people, Warbelow said.

2:19 p.m. ET. Peter Kirsanow, a commissioner with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, said Gorsuch’s opinions are squarely within the judicial mainstream when it comes to civil rights.

Kirsanow said Gorsuch takes First Amendment issues seriously in religious discrimination cases. An example, he said, is a decision in which Gorsuch upheld the free exercise rights of an unsympathic plaintiff who wanted to access a sweat lodge.

Gorsuch’s opinions are consistent with mainstream, textual interpretation of federal statutes, Kirsanow said.

2:13 p.m. ET. Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said courts have been a crucial forum for minorities seeking equal rights.

Gorsuch’s views take a narrow view of what constitutes a civil right, Clarke said.

Clarke spoke about the Supreme Court’s Shelby County decision striking down a preclearance formula under the Voting Rights Act. The decision “eviscerated the heart” of the Voting Rights Act, she said.

It is unclear whether Gorsuch is aware of widespread voter suppression today, Clarke said. We need to understand his views on the Voting Rights Act, she said.

Equally important, she said, are questions surrounding Gorsuch’s actions when he was a lawyer with the U.S. Justice Department. Gorsuch had some responsibility for overseeing the Civil Rights Division, which was criticized as politicized in a report by the Inspector General, she said.

Clarke also said Gorsuch takes a narrow view of the constitutional rights of defendants.

2:02 P.M. ET. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., asked questions about Chevron deference, in which courts defer to agency interpretations of ambiguous laws. Gorsuch has raised questions about the doctrine.

Karen Harned, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center, said small businesses are grappling with the increasing regulatory state, and it’s largely because of court deference to agencies. That’s why they are encouraged by Gorsuch’s view on Chevron deference, Harned said.

George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley said the Chevron case is sort of the Marbury of the administrative state, in that it says agencies can have the final word. “I would caution those who say this is going to be an apocalyptic moment” if Chevron deference is eliminated, he said.

1:52 p.m. ET. Sen. Christopher Coons, D-Del., asked Pat Gallagher of the Sierra Club about Gorsuch rulings that restrict access to the courts by environmental plaintiffs.

Gallagher said it’s critical that citizens be able to enforce the laws, especially at a time when President Trump intends to cut back environmental protections. “If we can’t get access to court,” Gallagher said, “who you gonna call?”

1:42 p.m. ET. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., talked about a “front group” that is mounting a $10 million campaign to secure Gorsuch’s nomination. The donors to the group are unknown, Whitehouse said. He also mentioned support of Gorsuch by a billionaire supporter, Philip Anschutz.

Demos president Heather McGhee said Gorsuch has the opportunity to acknowledge the concerns raised by the Citizens United ruling during the hearings. But he was “quite evasive,” she said.

1:35 p.m. ET. Answering a question by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley said Gorsuch is going to follow his conscience, and won’t be predictable or robotic. Gorsuch’s opinions show he has intense intellectual firepower and independence, Turley said.

Turley said he shares Gorsuch’s view of Chevron deference. The doctrine tends to usurp the role of the courts and of Congress, he said.

If the doctrine is eliminated, agency views may still be given great weight, Turley said. “There’s not a cliff here,” he said. Moving away from Chevron will get the courts more heavily involved in review of agency decision-making and will return power to Congress, he said.

1:29 p.m. ET. Eve Hill, a disability rights attorney with Brown Goldstein Levy, called Gorsuch’s disability rights opinions “troubling.”

Hill cited the case of the autistic student named Luke, highlighted earlier today in testimony by the father of the student, Jeff Perkins. Gorsuch used a restrictive “merely more than de minimis” standard to deny reimbursement for the student’s education, she said.

Other opinions by Gorsuch shifted standards of review and created “legal minefields” to undermine the education rights of students with disabilities, Hill said. He also ruled against others with disabilities, Hill said.

1:24 p.m. ET. Karen Harned, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center, praised Gorsuch’s opinions.

Gorsuch’s opinions are clear and often provide bright-line rules, Harned said. He is not known for using ambiguous or broad language that fails to settle the question before him, she told thr committee.

“Small business owners want and need certainty,” Harned said.

Harned said small businesses bear a disproportionate share of regulatory burdens. The problem of overregulation has been further exacerbated by the broad deference shown to administrative agencies by courts, she said.

The courts’ use of the Chevron doctrine, giving deference to agency interpretations of ambiguous laws, provides little judicial oversight to agency overreaching, she said. She praised Gorsuch’s concurring opinion encouraging the Supreme Court to review the doctrine.

1:19 p.m. ET. Pat Gallagher, director of the Environmental Law Program at the Sierra Club, said Gorsuch’s record shows he would shut the courthouse door to people who want to protect their air, water, public lands and families.

Gallagher pointed to a couple Gorsuch decisions. In 2013 the Sierra Club moved to intervene in a lawsuit, which was granted by the 10th Circuit. Gorsuch dissented. In 2005, Gorsuch ruled the Sierra Club and other groups did not have standing to sue.

Gallagher noted that President Trump is cutting the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency. Gallagher said Gorsuch would further that agenda.

1:12 p.m. ET. George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley said he doesn’t agree with all of Gorsuch’s views, but he believes he is an excellent choice for the Supreme Court.

The issue shouldn’t be replacing a conservative with a conservative. It should be replacing an intellectual with an intellectual, Turley said. Gorsuch has those abilities, and he might even eclipse his predecessor, Turley said.

There has been a preference for nominees with little record, Turley said. Gorsuch has a full portfolio of work, on the other hand.

Gorsuch has a good record of writings “so this is not a blind date,” Turley said. “To put it simply, Neil Gorsuch is as good as it gets, and he should not be penalized for engaging in” debates on current issues, he said.

12:35 p.m. ET. The Senate Judiciary Committee breaks until 1:10 p.m. ET.

12:33 p.m. ET. Fatima Goss Graves of the National Women’s Law Center said Gorsuch’s approach to judging has “time and again” disadvantaged women.

She cited one case in which a woman was subjected to sexual harassment. If she complained too early, she had no claim. But if she waited too long, under Gorsuch’s approach, she also had no claim, Graves said.

Graves also referred to the Hobby Lobby case in which Gorsuch joined a decision finding that an employer’s religious beliefs can override its requirement to supply birth control under the Affordable Care Act.

Gorsuch’s record also shows hostility to the Constitution’s protection of personal and intimate decisions, she said.

A review of Gorsuch’s record, with the backdrop of President Trump promising to appoint a judge who would overrule Roe v. Wade, leads to the conclusion that Gorsuch should not be confirmed, she said.

12:27 p.m. ET. Georgetown University law professor Lawrence Solum said there are many myths about originalism. It does not ask what Madison would do. Rather, words of the Constitution can be adapted to new circumstances using originalist interpretation, he said, and that has been established at the confirmation hearings.

Originalism is in the mainstream of American jurisprudence, he said. For the most part, the Supreme Court has been an originalist court.

Originalism should be endorsed by both Democrats and Republicans, Solum said. “I am convinced that giving power to judges to override the Constitution, to impose their own vision of constitutional law, is dangerous,” he said.

12:22 p.m. ET. Heather McGhee, president of Demos, said the way campaigns are funded allows economic might to be translated into political power. And the Supreme Court’s decisions have brought us to this place, she said.

Our government represents a plutocracy more than a representative democracy, McGhee said. Less than 1 percent of the population provides a majority of the funds for elections, resulting in the skewing of public policy toward the wealthy, she said.

Demos released a report last week on extra money flowing into politics because of Supreme Court decisions striking down campaign finance law. The report said the decisions are responsible for almost half of the big money spent. Many of those Supreme Court decision have been decided 5-4.

With a Supreme Court responsive to facts rather than ideology, we could end the Super PACS, she said.

McGhee said Gorsuch would take the Supreme Court further down the path created by the Roberts court. In one case he heard, he gave a harsh standard of review to a challenge to campaign funding limits, she said.

12:16 p.m. ET. MoloLamken partner Jeff Lamken, a Democrat, said he has known Gorsuch as a colleague and friend for 20 years. Lamken has designated Gorsuch to raise his children if anything were to happen to him and his wife.

Lamken said Gorsuch is kind and compassionate, with a generous spirit. His kindness and humility is expressed through the value he puts on listening, Lamken said.

Lamken said he doesn’t know how Gorsuch would rule on specific matters, and he doesn’t think Gorsuch knows either. He struggles with hard cases, listening to litigants and his colleagues. He will decide the cases based on the force of the better argument, Lamken said.

12:09 p.m. ET. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., responds to Gorsuch’s former law clerk, Leah Bressack, who made an unsolicited comment supporting him.

Blumenthal said he is concerned about Gorsuch’s restrictive interpretation of laws that are designed to protect workers.

Blumenthal said he has been in the Senate for seven years, and he has never heard a senator quote the Oxford English Dictionary. Yet Gorsuch uses it often in his opinions in a way that harms workers, Blumenthal said.

11:55 a.m. ET. Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, talked about the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Wednesday that rejected the 10th Circuit standard for interpreting the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, a law that requires an appropriate public education for students with disabilities.

Gorsuch had written a decision that took a restrictive 10th Circuit standard and made it even more restrictive for students seeking educational services, Perkins said. Gorsuch had written an opinion rejecting reimbursement for the education provided to Perkins’ autistic son.

11:47 a.m. ET. Leahy said he had asked Gorsuch whether the First Amendment prohibits a religious litmus test for entry into the United States. Leahy said he meant the question as a softball, but Gorsuch said he couldn’t answer it because of pending litigation.

Jaffer said it’s not enough to say “no person is above the law,” as Gorsuch did. All of the Bush administration lawyers on both sides of the torture issue thought they were following the law, Jaffer said.

11:45 a.m. ET. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., asked Human Rights CEO Elisa Massimino how the Supreme Court should approach the balance between national security and individual rights.

Massimino said she had heard Gorsuch testify that no man is above the law, but that is not enough. According to legal memos prepared by Bush administration lawyers, they believed that the law against torture allowed torture in a kind of Alice in Wonderland situation, she said.

Massimino said Gorsuch essentially argued in an email, from his time in the Justice Department, that a law prohibiting torture was actually codifying existing practices, which allowed torture.

It’s extremely important that the Supreme Court be allowed to stand up to executive overreach, Massimino said.

11:35 a.m. ET. Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., questioned a former Gorsuch law clerk, Leah Bressack.

Bressack called Gorsuch “an incredibly caring person” who takes very seriously his job of interpreting the law correctly. He has great sympathy and respect for the litigants before him, she said. He is not only brilliant, but is also humble in the way he approaches important tasks.

He is also interested in his law clerk’s careers and personal lives.

Is he political? Kennedy asked.

“Not when we’re deciding cases,” Bressack said.

11:20 a.m. ET. Answering questions by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Calemine said he is concerned about a project underway to harm worker’s rights and worker organizations through litigation so that workers don’t have the ability to exercise bargaining power.

11:01 a.m. ET. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., talked about Gorsuch’s work at the Justice Department to eliminate habeas appeals for Guantanamo details. She also mentioned his work on a signing statement for President George W. Bush contending that a law banning cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees codified current policy.

Jaffer said an important question is what Judge Gorsuch knew about CIA interrogation methods, which included waterboarding, when he worked with President George W. Bush on the signing statement.

10:49 a.m. ET. Guerino Calemine III, general counsel for the Communications Workers of America, criticized Gorsuch’s ruling in the so-called frozen trucker case. He warned that Gorsuch could undo health and safety laws that protect working people if he becomes a Supreme Court justice.

Gorsuch is not merely applying facts of the law to cases, Calemine said. His opinions produce absurd results that narrow worker rights, he said.

10:39 a.m. ET. The Washington Post reports that Democrats will filibuster Gorsuch’s nomination.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said he was not sufficiently convinced that Gorsuch would be an independent check on President Trump, according to the Post account.

Gorsuch is “not a neutral legal mind but someone with a deep-seated conservative ideology,” Schumer said. “He was groomed by the Federalist Society and has shown not one inch of difference between his views and theirs.”

The announcement means it could be difficult to amass the 60 votes needed to advance Gorsuch’s nomination, absent a rule change.

10:37 a.m. ET. Jeff Perkins, a plaintiff in a 2008 disability rights case, spoke about his autistic son Luke, who needed specialized educational services. His life was much improved by a special school, but the cost depleted Perkins’ savings. He had sought reimbursement, and a federal judge approved it. But Judge Gorsuch wrote an opinion finding that the federal law governing a free and appropriate education for disabled students required an education that was only slightly above de minimis, Perkins said.

Gorsuch has said he was applying the standard used by the 10th Circuit in interpreting the free and appropriate education required for students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act. On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the standard used by the 10th Circuit.

10:32 a.m. ET. U.S. District Judge John Kane of Colorado said Gorsuch treats parties with respect, he doesn’t ridicule them and he doesn’t take cheap shots.

Gorsuch is the only judge he knows of who has written both majority opinions and concurring opinions in the same case, Kane said. He knows the difference between speaking for a court and for himself, Kane said.

Gorsuch’s opinions also make clear his keen awareness of the need for the separation of powers and judicial independence.

Gorsuch knows that his social, political and religious views have no place on the bench, Kane said.

10:27 a.m. ET Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute, said it is clear that Gorsuch has the professional competence to serve on the court. But his service in the Justice Department raises important questions about his view of executive power, Jaffer said.

It’s worth noting that Gorsuch appears not to have raised disagreement with any of the policies he defended at Justice, Jaffer said. Rather he appeared to have been dismayed by challenges to the policies.

Jaffer said questions relating to executive power are important today, given President Trump’s travel ban, his vow to prosecute U.S. citizens at Guantanamo, and to increase surveillance of minority communities.

The committee should ask whether Gorsuch will safeguard individual rights and the separation of powers, Jaffer said.

10:21 a.m. ET. Judge Robert Harlan Henry, a former chief judge of the 10th Circuit, said he had served with Gorsuch and had traveled and dined with him. He has a truly remarkable intellect, fine judicial temperament and oft-demonstrated integrity, Henry said.

10:20 a.m. ET. Elisa Massimino, president and CEO of Human Rights First, spoke about Gorsuch’s role in the U.S. Justice Department during the George W. Bush administration. In his role there, Gorsuch helped craft a signing statement claiming a law banning torture codified existing law, and he sought legislation that would strip courts of habeas jurisdiction to hear cases brought by Guantanamo detainees.

Gorsuch was on the wrong side of the issues, and he helped craft policies that compromised America’s global standing, Massimino said. Given his record, the committee should probe Gorsuch’s views, Massimino said.

Did Gorsuch’s actions at Justice reflect his philosophy or his desire to be a team player? she asked.

10:12 a.m. ET. Deanell Reece Tacha, former chief judge of the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said Gorsuch brings to the bench a powerful intellect combined with a probing and analytical approach. He limits his analysis to the facts and the record, and he does not use his judicial role as a vehicle for anything other than deciding the case before him, she said.

“Judge Gorsuch is a case, by case, by case judge,” she said.

Tacha said Gorsuch is “an elegant and accessible writer,” and she has used his opinions in her writing classes to demonstrate the importance of narrative.

Tacha said collegiality is an important characteristic of a well-functioning court, and that doesn’t mean just going along to get along. Judge Gorsuch pays attention to the views of his colleagues, and he has an acute sense for when reaching consensus is of the highest value, she said. Gorsuch believes in the court as an organic and flourishing entity, where the views of all the judges on the court are important, she said.

Tacha said Gorsuch is her friend. Gorsuch immediately and always affirmed her as a person and as a colleague, she said. She observed him at the courthouse and in social setting, and he is “unfailingly kind,” as well as thoughtful and empathetic to all people.

“Judge Gorsuch lives according tohis values.” Faith, family, nation and his beloved Colorado define who he is, she said.

9:59 a.m. ET. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., asked if Gorsuch was a mainstream judge. Degan avoided the question, and Graham rephrased. “If he’s in a stream, he’s from the quality end of the stream, is that right?” Graham asked.

“He’s fishing in it,” Shannon Edwards, the other standing committee member, replied.

9:54 a.m. ET. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., asked about late-submitted materials in connection with Gorsuch’s work at the U.S. Justice Department. Degan said the committee did not have the opportunity to review the materials, but based on what she heard she does not believe it would change the rating. Degan said Gorsuch had indicated his work was on behalf of the federal government, which was his client.

Feinstein said the documents indicate Gorsuch’s thinking on issues of great concern, namely torture.

Feinstein noted that the committee had also reviewed failed Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, who was also described as brilliant, of high integrity and highly respected. Republicans refused to hold a confirmation hearing for Garland.

9:51 a.m. ET. Grassley asked Degan to describe the scope of the review. “We do not give the well-qualified rating lightly, and I can assure you that every member of the standing committee reviewed intently” the more than 900 pages of compiled materials, Degan said.

Edwards said the committee contacted more than 5,000 individuals. A prepared statement by the ABA is here (PDF).

9:46 a.m. ET. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said the ABA committee’s rating of well-qualified is not given lightly, and Degan agreed.

Grassley noted the standing committee found that Gorsuch had an excellent reputation for integrity and is a person of outstanding integrity. The committee also found that Gorsuch’s professional competence exceeds the high criteria set by the committee, Grassley said. And the committee heard overwhelming praise in support of Gorsuch’s judicial temperament, Grassley said.

Grassley also said the committee had found Gorsuch believes strongly in the judicial branch and would be a strong but respectful voice in protecting it.

9:35 a.m. ET. Two representatives of the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary appear first. They are the chair, Nancy Scott Degan, and the committee’s 10th Circuit representative, Shannon Edwards, who was the lead evaluator for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.

Degan explained the rating process and said Gorsuch received the committee’s top rating of well-qualified by a unanimous vote.

Gorsuch confirmation hearings, Day 4: ABA testimony expected. Representatives from the ABA Standing Committee on the Judiciary are scheduled to testify Thursday about its well-qualified rating of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.

Testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee begins at 9:30 a.m. ET. The ABA testimony will be followed by testimony by two former chief judges of the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the court on which Gorsuch sits. Representatives of several groups are also slated to testify.

On Wednesday, Democrats on the committee sought clues about whether Gorsuch would vote to overrule the rights to abortion or same-sex marriage by asking questions about the right to privacy, originalism and precedent. They also questioned him about rulings on voting rights and Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision striking down restrictions on corporate campaign spending.

Gorsuch emphasized that he couldn’t comment on issues that could come before him as a judge, and he maintained that his opinions didn’t matter because judges decide cases based on the facts and the law.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, said she will have to judge Gorsuch’s nomination based not on what he has said during the hearings, but on what he didn’t say.

“It remains to be seen if you will be a justice for all, or a justice for some,” she said.

Gorsuch did make clear that he believes the president of the United States has to comply with court orders. “You better believe I expect judicial decrees to be obeyed,” Gorsuch said. “That’s the rule of law in this country.”

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