Gorsuch: ‘For a Judge, Precedent Is a Very Important Thing’

By Susan Jones | March 21, 2017 | 11:57 AM EDT

Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch prepares to testify on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, March 21, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

(CNSNews.com) – “For a judge, precedent is a very important thing,” Judge Neil Gorsuch told the Senate Judiciary Committee at his confirmation hearing on Tuesday. “We don't go reinvent the wheel every day.”

Gorsuch, who co-wrote a book on legal precedent, told the committee that judges must “start with a heavy, heavy presumption in favor of precedent,” but in “a very few cases,” precedent may be overruled.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley asked Gorsuch about several precedent-setting Supreme Court cases, including the Heller case, where the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to bear arms.

“If I asked you to tell me whether Heller was rightly decided, can you answer that for me?”

“Senator, I'd respectfully respond that it is a precedent of the United States Supreme Court. And as a good judge, you don't approach that question anew as if it had never been decided. That would be a wrong way to approach it. 

“My personal views, I'd also tell you, Mr. Chairman, belong over here. I leave those at home.”

Gorsuch said part of being a good judge is “coming in and taking precedent as it stands. And your personal views about the precedent have absolutely nothing to do with the good job of a judge.”

After asking Gorsuch about several other cases, Grassley finally got around to the “case that most people are thinking about right now,” Roe v. Wade.

“Can you tell me whether Roe was decided correctly?” Grassley asked Gorsuch.

“Again, I would tell you that Roe vs. Wade, decided in 1973, is a precedent of the United States Supreme Court. It has been reaffirmed. The reliance interest considerations are important there, and all of the other factors that go into analyzing precedent have to be considered. 

"It is a precedent of the United States Supreme Court. It was reaffirmed in Casey in 1992. And in several other cases. So a good judge will consider it as precedent of the United States Supreme Court, worthy as treatment of precedent like any other.”

Grassley also asked Gorsuch for his views on the 1965 Griswold case, where the Supreme Court found a constitutional right to privacy.

“Senator, it's a precedent that's now 50 years old,” Gorsuch said. “Griswold involved the right of married couples to use contraceptive devices in the privacy of their own home. And it's 50 years old. The reliance interests are obvious. It's been repeatedly reaffirmed. All very important factors, again, in analyzing precedent. “


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