Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch ‘knows what a grazing allotment is’
March 1, 2017
President Donald Trump on Jan. 31 nominated Neil Gorsuch as his choice for the Supreme Court. The position needed filling since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia a year ago. Trump promised to fill the vacancy with someone who was "very much in the mold of" Scalia. It appears he's found someone to fit the bill.
The conservative from Colorado is a graduate of Columbia, Harvard, and Oxford universities and has sat on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Wyoming, since 2006. President George W. Bush nominated Gorsuch for 10th Circuit, and the Senate confirmed Gorsuch by a voice vote two months later, much as the Senate must vote Gorsuch into the Supreme Court; though he is expected to meet more resistance by democrats this time around.
Gorsuch is known to be an originalist and a textualist, someone who interprets the Constitution and statutes as they were originally written.
"Scalia was an originalist, they feel the Constitution doesn't change over time. Gorsuch is going to have the same view of the Constitution. Liberals think the Constitution evolves over time, so in that way, I think [Gorsuch nominated for Supreme Court] is very good," said Karen Budd-Falen, an attorney, and with her husband Frank Falen, the owner of the Budd-Falen Law Offices, L.L.C. located in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
During his confirmation hearing, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., questioned Gorsuch about how his views on assisted suicide and euthanasia would affect his judging.
Each case, Gorsuch said, deserves the "complete attention of the judge without being diverted by personal politics, policy preferences, or what you ate for breakfast." He later added that he would "follow the law as written and not replace it with [his] own preferences, or anyone else's."
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Before presiding over cases on the 10th Circuit, Gorsuch served as a law clerk to Judge David Sentelle of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy of the U.S. Supreme Court. Gorsuch then joined a prominent D.C. law firm, where he practiced for 10 years.
He went on to serve as principal deputy to the associate attorney general and as acting associate attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice, the third-highest position within that department.
Gorsuch presided over very few agriculture-related cases at the 10th circuit, not by choice, but when his name was drawn. Of the few cases heard by Gorsuch with an agriculture aspect, he went by the book and laws already set in place.
"He grew up in Colorado and at least knows what a grazing allotment is. In an oral argument, I don't have to start at the beginning about how grazing works. It's hard to get to a legal issue when a judge doesn't have any background or reality of how federal lands work. At least Gorsuch has confirmed that he knows what BLM stands for, and it's not black lives matter," Budd-Falen said. For that reason I totally support his nominations; we at least have someone with some agriculture background."
In the case of George v. United States, 672 F.3d 942 (10th Cir. 2012), Gorsuch stated, "Anne George wants to fence her property and, with it, corral her horse. Trouble is, the Forest Service has a road running through her land that Ms. George's fence threatens to block. Ms. George offered to leave a gate across the road unlocked, but the Service rejected this option, arguing that the public needs unfettered access to the adjacent Gila National Forest. Instead, the Forest Service encouraged Ms. George to pen her horse with a fence running alongside its road, but she found this alternative just as unsatisfactory. The parties' wrangling dragged on for years but led nowhere until Ms. George filed this lawsuit. In the end, however, we must rule against her. Whatever legal entitlement she might have had to build a fence across the Forest Service's road she lost years ago thanks to an even less permeable barrier to entry: the statute of limitations."
In another case involving mineral rights versus land rights, ENTEK GRB, LLC v. Stull Ranches, LLC, 763 F. 3d 1252 (10th Cir. 2014), Gorsuch exhibits his knowledge of aspects within agriculture.
"When you own property in the West you don't always own everything from the surface to the center of the Earth. Someone else might own the minerals lying underground and the right to access them. Someone else still might own the right to use the water flowing through your property. All this can invite confusion—and litigation. Ours is such a case, a battle between ranchers and miners over property claims they trace back to separate government grants an age ago," Gorsuch wrote.
The case involved a rancher who operates a grouse hunting business, who was concerned that the intrusion of Entek, an oil company with rights to minerals under Stull Ranch's ground, would disrupt the grouse.
"At summary judgment, the district court held that Entek was entitled to access portions of Stull's surface to mine certain leases lying below. But the court also held that Entek was entitled to no more than this—in particular, Entek could not cross Stull's surface to service the well on the adjacent BLM land. Entek appeals, asking us to supply the fuller relief it sought, not merely what the district court granted. We believe we must do just that," Gorsuch wrote.
During the Jan. 31 nomination, Trump said that Gorsuch has "outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, tremendous discipline, and he's earned bipartisan support." Gorsuch is "a man who our country needs badly to ensure the rule of law."