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February 28, 2017

Gorsuch confirmation hearings set for March 20; ABA standing committee begins evaluation of nominee

The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled confirmation hearings to begin March 20 on the nomination of Neil M. Gorsuch to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

President Trump nominated Gorsuch on Jan. 31 to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Gorsuch, who was appointed as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit by President George W. Bush in 2006, holds a law degree from Harvard Law School and a Doctor of Philosophy in Law from University College in Oxford.

After clerking for DC Circuit Appeals Court Judge David Sentelle and Supreme Court Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy, he joined the law firm of Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel. After 10 years of private practice from 1995 to 2005, he served as a deputy associate attorney general in the Department of Justice until his judicial appointment.

In a statement issued immediately following the announcement of Gorsuch’s nomination, ABA President Linda A. Klein highlighted the role the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary has played in evaluating the professional qualifications of Supreme Court nominees since the Eisenhower administration. Every member of the 15-member committee participates in the evaluation, which involve extensive peer review of the nominee’s integrity, professional competence and judicial temperament.

The standing committee focuses solely on a nominee’s professional qualifications and does not take in consideration the nominee’s philosophy, political affiliation or ideology.

The investigations of Supreme Court nominees are particularly rigorous because of the significance, range and complexity of issues the Supreme Court considers.

After the committee members complete their evaluation, they vote to rate the Supreme Court nominee “Well Qualified,” “Qualified” or “Not Qualified.”  The rating is submitted in writing to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the White House, the U.S. Department of Justice and the nominee, and is posted on the standing committee’s website for the public record. The standing committee also submits a detailed written statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee explaining the reasons for its rating, and traditionally is invited to testify as the first public witness at the nominee’s confirmation hearing.

In her statement, Klein emphasized that the standing committee’s role is insulated and separate from all other ABA activities. “The impartiality and independence of the committee and its procedures are essential to the effectiveness of its work,” Klein said, adding that the ABA looked forward to “engaging in the process to ensure that the Senate can make an informed decision about the professional qualifications of this and future Supreme Court nominees.”


Back to the February 2017 Washington Letter