US Supreme Court nominee says inappropriate to promise rulings

Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump's US Supreme Court pick, said on Tuesday he would not hesitate to rule against the president. He's vowing independence amid concerns by Democrats he would be beholden to the man who nominated him.
Judge Neil Gorsuch said there is no such thing as a partisan judge.
Judge Neil Gorsuch said there is no such thing as a partisan judge.

WASHINGTON • United States Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch told senators yesterday that he has made no promises about how he would rule on cases, and said he was not asked to do so when President Donald Trump nominated him to the nation's highest court.

"I have offered no promises on how I'd rule in any case to anyone," he added at the start of a marathon day of questioning by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"I don't think it's appropriate for a judge to do so, no matter who's doing the asking."

Under friendly questioning by Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, Judge Gorsuch, 49, said he would also be able to "put politics aside" when ruling on cases.

"There's no such thing as a Republican judge or a Democratic judge. We just have judges in this country."

Judge Gorsuch also said that Supreme Court precedents deserve respect, even as he sidestepped questions on whether he thought a series of contentious cases from the past had been decided correctly.

The judge said it would be the "beginning of the end" of the independent judiciary if judges had to indicate how they would rule in future cases.

Pressing on a frequent Democratic concern that Judge Gorsuch would favour corporate interests, Senator Dianne Feinstein, the senior Democrat on the committee, asked him: "How do we have confidence in you that you won't just be for the big corporations, that you will be for the little man?"

He replied that such decisions are just a small proportion of his work, saying he has often ruled for the "little guy".

In a Twitter post during the hearing, Mr Trump praised Judge Gorsuch as "the kind of judge we need" for the Supreme Court.

Yesterday's session was expected to last into the evening, and another day of questioning for the nominee is scheduled for today.

Democrats will be hard-pressed to stop the nomination, given that Republicans control the Senate with 52 out of 100 seats.

Under current rules, Democrats need only 41 votes to filibuster the nomination but Republicans could change those rules with a simple majority vote.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2017, with the headline 'US Supreme Court nominee says inappropriate to promise rulings'. Print Edition | Subscribe