Background and Information: Judge Neil Gorsuch

Personal Life 

·         Born in Denver, Colorado in 1967.

·         Married to Marie Louise Gorsuch for 20 years; father of two teenage daughters.

·         Avid outdoorsman who loves to fish, hunt and ski.

·         During summer vacations in high school and college, he worked as a furniture mover and a front-desk

·         clerk at a Howard Johnson hotel.


Current Position

·         Serves on United States Court of appeals for the Tenth Circuit, 2006-present.

·         Earned “unanimously well qualified” rating from American Bar Association, 2006.

·         Confirmed without opposition to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals by a voice vote of the United States Senate in 2006.

·         Has an extensive body of work, having decided thousands of cases.  As Eric Citron explained, “He is celebrated as a keen legal thinker and a particularly incisive legal writer, with a flair that matches — or at least evokes — that of the justice whose seat he would be nominated to fill.”     



·         B.A., Columbia University, 1988; Phi Betta Kappa.

·         J.D., Harvard Law School, 1991; Harry S. Truman scholar; cum laude

·         DPhil in Legal Philosophy, University of Oxford, 2004; Marshall scholar.


Legal Experience

·         Clerk for Judge David Sentelle of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, 1991-92.

·         Clerk for United States Supreme Court Justice Byron White and Justice Anthony Kennedy, 1993-94.

·         Attorney at Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel in Washington, DC, 1995-2005; partner.

·         Deputy Associate Attorney General, United States Department of Justice, 2005-06.

·         Received the prestigious Edward J. Randolph Award for outstanding service to the Department of Justice, and the Harry S. Truman Foundation’s Stevens Award for outstanding public service in the field of law.





Textualism and Originalism

In Of Lions and Bears, Judges and Legislators, and the Legacy of Justice Scalia (Case Western Reserve Law Review (2016)), Judge Gorsuch made it clear that, like Justice Scalia, he believes that judges should follow the text and original meaning of the Constitution, not their own policy preferences:


“Respectfully, it seems to me an assiduous focus on text, structure, and history is essential to the proper exercise of the judicial function. That, yes, judges should be in the business of declaring what the law is using the traditional tools of interpretation, rather than pronouncing the law as they might wish it to be in light of their own political views, always with an eye on the outcome, and engaged perhaps in some Benthamite calculation of pleasures and pains along the way. Though the critics are loud and the temptations to join them may be many, mark me down too as a believer that the traditional account of the judicial role Justice Scalia defended will endure.”


Similarly, in Cordova v. City of Albuquerque, he wrote that:


“Ours is the job of interpreting the Constitution. And that document isn’t some inkblot on which litigants may project their hopes and dreams . . . but a carefully drafted text judges are charged with applying according to its original public meaning. If a party wishes to claim a constitutional right, it is incumbent on him to tell us where it lies, not to assume or stipulate with the other side that it must be in there someplace.”

Constitutional Checks and Balances

In Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch, Judge Gorsuch laid out in detail his view that the Constitution’s separation of powers protects the American people from threats to their liberty.  As he put it: 


“In enlightenment theory and hard won experience under a tyrannical king the founders found proof of the wisdom of a government of separated powers. In the avowedly political legislature, the framers endowed the people’s representatives with the authority to prescribe new rules of general applicability prospectively. In the executive, they placed the task of ensuring the legislature’s rules are faithfully executed in the hands of a single person also responsive to the people. And in the judiciary, they charged individuals insulated from political pressures with the job of interpreting the law and applying it retroactively to resolve past disputes. This allocation of different sorts of power to different sorts of decision-makers was no accident.”


Religious Liberty

Judge Gorsuch has repeatedly stood up for the religious liberty of all Americans.  InHobby Lobby v. Sebelius and Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell, he stood up to the Obama Administration’s attempt to force organizations and individuals to violate their deeply held religious beliefs and conscience.  Similarly, inYellowbear v. Lampert, he ruled in favor of an inmate who said that prison officials violated his religious liberty by refusing him access to a prison sweat lodge that was necessary to practice his Native American faith. 

Over-Regulation and Over-Criminalization

In his 2013 Barbara K. Olson Memorial Lecture at the Federalist Society National Lawyers Convention, Judge Gorsuch discussed the ever-expanding federal criminal code:  “Without written laws, we lack fair notice of the rules we must obey.  But with too many written laws, don’t we invite a new kind of fair notice problem?  And what happens to individual freedom and equality—and to our very conception of law itself—when the criminal code comes to cover so many facets of daily life that prosecutors can almost choose their targets with impunity?”  Citing James Madison in Federalist 62, Judge Gorsuch warned that “when laws become just a paper blizzard citizens are left unable to know what the law is and cannot conform their conduct to it.  … It is an irony of the law that either too much or too little can impair liberty.  Our aim here has to be for a golden mean.  And it may be worth asking how far we might have strayed from it.”


Second Amendment                                                                                                                                 

Judge Gorsuch respects the Second Amendment, writing in United States v. Games-Perez that “there is ‘a long tradition of widespread gun ownership by private individuals in this country,’ and the Supreme Court has held the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to own firearms and may not be infringed lightly.”


Freedom of Speech

Judge Gorsuch bases decisions on what the law says, regardless of his own political beliefs.  In Riddle v. Hickenlooper, Judge Gorsuch agreed that Colorado campaign finance law unconstitutionally permitted major party donors to make two contributions per election cycle while minor candidates could only receive one contribution. Judge Gorsuch wrote that there is “something distinct, different, and more problematic afoot when the government selectively infringes on a fundamental right.”  




Compiled by the Judicial Crisis Network, headed up by Carrie Severino, who is chief counsel to the organization, and a former clerk to Justice Thomas.


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