It’s Neil Gorsuch! President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court was Judge Neil Gorsuch of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. If you watched the announcement on TV last night, you already know about his impressive credentials. If confirmed, Judge Gorsuch will fill the vacancy created by the death last year of Justice Antonin Scalia, and he’ll be the first Supreme Court Justice to serve with his former mentor, Justice Anthony Kennedy, for whom he clerked. Pretty cool.
I did a quick scroll through Judge Gorsuch’s decisions in Westlaw last night, and it appears that he has affirmed summary judgment for employers in a lot of Title VII cases but also frequently supports the National Labor Relations Board. In other words, from an employment law standpoint, it doesn’t appear that he is necessarily going to be easy to classify as “pro-employer” or “pro-employee.” Again, all I did was scroll, so I could be wrong.
I did take the time this morning to read the en banc Tenth Circuit Hobby Lobby decision, a case that was ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. (In Hobby Lobby, the majority on the Tenth Circuit and the Supreme Court found that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act applied to privately-held for-profit corporations, and that the plaintiffs could not be forced to provide contraceptive coverage to employees under the Affordable Care Act, in contravention of their sincerely held religious beliefs.)*
*The ACA required employers to provide coverage for all 20 contraceptives approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Sixteen of the contraceptives prevented fertilization, but four prevented implantation of the fertilized ovum. The plaintiffs in Hobby Lobby had a religious objection to providing coverage for the four “implantation” contraceptives, which they considered to be tantamount to abortion.
Judge Gorsuch did not write the majority opinion, but he wrote a concurrence. (Scroll to pdf page 78.) His opinion supports what we’ve been hearing in the news: (1) he seems receptive to the issue of religious freedom and respectful of religion, and (2) he follows the law. Regarding point 2, here is a nice quote from the opinion (emphasis is mine):
The ACA compels [two of the Hobby Lobby plaintiffs] to act. The RFRA says they need not. We are asked to decide which legislative direction controls. The tie-breaker is found not in our own opinions about good policy but in the laws Congress enacted.
Over the next few days, I’ll read more of his employment-related opinions and report on anything that is noteworthy.
And, of course, I’ll keep you up to date on the confirmation battle that is likely to ensue.
Puzder postponed . . . perpetually? Andrew Puzder’s confirmation hearing — most recently scheduled for Tuesday — has been postponed yet again, and this time, no new date has been announced. Mr. Puzder is President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Labor. Supposedly, his paperwork has either not been completed, or not been completely vetted by the Office of Government Ethics so that his nomination can be submitted to Congress.