Senator Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, unwaveringly questioned Judge Neil Gorsuch in his Supreme Court nomination hearing today. But rather than grill Gorsuch on his former rulings, or ask questions that would reaffirm his impartiality if nominated to the bench, Feinstein used her time to ask questions pertaining to his political beliefs.
Feinstein received nearly identical answers — that Gorsuch strives for impartiality and it would be unfair to future litigants if he revealed his political beliefs — time and time again.
On the Second Amendment, Feinstein asked whether Gorsuch agreed with Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, a Supreme Court ruling that affirmed an individual’s right to possess firearms, or Justice John Paul Stevens’s dissenting opinion.
“Both Justice Scalia and Justice Stevens wrote excellent opinions in that case,” Gorsuch said. But, he explained, a nod in agreement with one opinion or the other would indicate to future litigants that he has already determined the outcome of their cases. “Whatever is in Heller is the law, and I follow the law,” he said.
Feinstein’s follow-up question? Whether Gorsuch agreed with Scalia’s opinion in Heller, specifically regarding his decision that military-style weapons may be banned.
“It’s not a matter of agreeing or disagreeing, senator,” Gorsuch said. “Respectfully, it’s a matter of it being the law, and my job is to apply and enforce the law.”
But Feinstein refused to accept that answer yet again, further asking which opinions by Scalia that he disagreed with. After Gorsuch explained why the question was inappropriate, Feinstein quipped, “Then 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?”
It seems that Feinstein and many of her Democratic colleagues do not set impartiality as a requirement for Supreme Court Justice nominees. Advocating the Democratic party’s agenda, however, is a necessity.