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04/17/2017

Justice Gorsuch's First Case
Michael Ramsey

...was Perry v. Merit Systems Protection Board.  At SCOTUSblog, Amy Howe reports on the argument, including:

During his March confirmation hearing, then-Judge Neil Gorsuch repeatedly professed his belief that judges should adhere to the plain language of a law, without considering other factors such as the law’s history or what Congress might have intended when it enacted the law. After his first oral argument as a Supreme Court justice, it became clear that, when it comes to taking a statute literally, Gorsuch meant exactly what he said.

...

Chris Landau was the first attorney to argue before Justice Gorsuch, urging the court to rule that mixed cases like his client’s should go to the district court. Landau fielded questions from several different justices – including Kennedy, Roberts, and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Samuel Alito – before, at approximately 10:13 a.m., he found himself on the receiving end of Gorsuch’s first question as a justice. Exactly what part, Gorsuch wanted to know, of the federal statute at issue provided for the path that Landau was advocating? Landau started to respond by pointing to a Supreme Court case, but he didn’t get far before Gorsuch interrupted him to focus again on what he described as “the plain language” of the statute.

A few minutes later, Landau sought to reassure the justices that his client was not asking the Supreme Court to “break new ground” with its ruling. But Gorsuch again seemed skeptical, suggesting that what Landau was in fact asking the justices to do was to “just continue to make it up.” Gorsuch seemed to agree with Landau that the result his client is seeking should be in the text of the governing statute – but, Gorsuch cautioned, it isn’t.

(And congratulations to my former co-clerk Chris Landau on another fine argument, even if he wasn't relying on the plain meaning).