After over a year, the Supreme Court is finally back to nine justices with the swearing in of Niel Gorsuch. According to the New York Times, Justice Gorsuch was sworn in April 10th as the 113th justice of the Supreme Court. He replaces the late Justice Antonin Scalia, as a conservative justice on the court. This is an interesting event for me, coming out of a blog post I wrote last semester (The Senate and a Judicial Nominee walk into a bar…) in which I contemplated the hold out on the hearings for then-nominee Merrick Garland. It seems indeed that the gamble made by the largely Republican Senate worked out. They refused to hold hearings for the moderate Garland, taking a gamble. If the Democrat presidential nominee had won, she would have been free to pursue a more liberal nomination, in exchange for the chance that if the Republican nominee won the presidency, they in turn could put a more conservative justice in place. Apparently, they should play the lottery, because the gamble paid off.
What will this mean for the court in the long run? It is hard to say. We already have a fairly right leaning court, but in some ways, we may see the status quo somewhat maintained. As Gorsuch is replacing an already conservative justice, we may not see a radical change in the court. On the other hand, many of the currently sitting justices are getting older and we may see more vacancies on the Court, to be filled by President Trump. Historically, the party of the president has been a fairly good indicator of the political views of their Supreme Court appointees. It remains to be seen how the Court will be affected, but change may be in the wind, and if I were a gambler (I’m not, unlike the Senate it seems) I would wager we will see more conservative rulings. It remains to be seen how this may affect several issues of civil rights, including the rights of the LGBTQ community.