In Testimony, Massimino Urges Senators to Review Gorsuch Record on Separation of Powers, Judicial Review

Washington, D.C.—In testimony today before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Human Rights First’s Elisa Massimino will urge senators to review the record of Judge Neil Gorsuch, nominee for Associate Justice for the Supreme Court, during his time at the Department of Justice (DOJ). Massimino’s testimony notes that during Judge Gorsuch’s tenure as a high-level official at the Justice Department, the agency defended the use of extraordinary measures—such as the use of torture and indefinite detention of detainees—without congressional authorization, arguing that the president has executive authority over such policies in the name of national security. This deference to the executive branch is particularly problematic in the face of statements made by President Trump advocating serious violations of basic rights, as well as disdain for the judiciary.

“Human Rights First has never supported or opposed a judicial nominee, and we do not do so today,” noted Massimino in her testimony. “Despite Judge Gorsuch’s professional and academic credentials, his record at the Department of Justice raises serious concerns about his judgment and fidelity to important constitutional principles—including checks and balances and respect for human dignity—that should be thoroughly addressed before you move his nomination forward.”

Human Rights First notes that Judge Gorsuch started at the DOJ in 2005, a year that represented a turning point in the fight against torture. While it is unclear what role Judge Gorsuch played in this sorry chapter, evidence has suggested that, at the least, he was uncurious and untroubled by the Bush Administration’s torture policies and appears to have helped to defend them.

“Judge Gorsuch joined the DOJ at the height of the public controversy over torture and cruel treatment of detainees, devoting his energies to defending these unlawful policies and advocating for ways the executive branch could minimize or eliminate judicial review and evade binding legal requirements,” added Massimino. “If there is a yet-to-be-revealed record of Mr. Gorsuch raising questions and concerns about these policies and the claims of executive power that were made by the Bush Administration at the time, this administration and Judge Gorsuch should make it public for senators to consider.”

The organization also urged senators to ascertain whether Judge Gorsuch agrees with and will follow the precedents of cases involving Guantanamo detainees, specifically cases he has been associated with in the past. While at DOJ, Judge Gorsuch troublingly claimed that the president has unreviewable power to determine whether the Geneva Conventions apply.

“The Senate must get to the bottom of these questions, because sooner or later—and I suspect it will be sooner—the Supreme Court will be called on to protect fundamental liberty, judicial independence, and separation of powers from a president who regards the rule of law as an annoyance,” concluded Massimino.

For more information or to speak with Massimino, contact Corinne Duffy at [email protected] or 202-370-3319.


Published on March 23, 2017


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