WASHINGTON, D.C.—Justice Neil Gorsuch is only halfway through his first sitting on the Supreme Court, yet is already having an impact that will be felt for years to come.
Justice Neil Gorsuch had an active first day on the Supreme Court on Monday, weighing in heavily on both of the Court’s morning cases and injecting some humor into two dry legal subjects.
Before the High Court turned to its normal business, Chief Justice John Roberts took a moment to welcome Gorsuch “as the 101st associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States,” and on behalf of all the members of the Court, wished him a long and successful career in what Roberts referred to as their “common calling.” Gorsuch responded in kind, thanking the chief justice and all the other justices for the warm welcome he had received over the past week.
In Perry v. Merit Systems Protection Board, when a lawyer was walking the Court through a badly worded federal statute on how federal employees file appeals in their employment system, when the lawyer tried to persuade the justices that he was “not asking this Court to break any new ground,” Gorsuch replied, “No, just to continue to make it up.”
At another point in the case when the lawyer tried to assure Gorsuch by saying, “I think I am maybe emphatically agreeing with you,” Gorsuch quipped, “I hope so!,” evoking laughter throughout the courtroom.
On a more serious note, on Wednesday Gorsuch sat in on the biggest religious-liberty case of the year, Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, considering whether state constitutional provisions that forbid churches from participating in state funding grant programs violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution.
Currently pending before the Court right now is a petition to review a case from Colorado, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in which a baker was sanctioned by the state for not baking a cake for a same-sex wedding. Word on that petition could come as early as next Monday.
Next Wednesday on the Court’s last oral argument day for its 2016 term, Gorsuch will sit in on oral arguments in Maslenjak v. U.S., a case in which an immigrant was stripped of her U.S. citizenship when she made a false statement in a criminal proceeding that, while false, was also immaterial to the case.
It’s a busy two weeks for the Supreme Court’s newest member.
Ken Klukowski is senior legal editor for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.