Testimony: Hearing on the Nomination of Judge Neil M. Gorsuch for Associate Justice United States Supreme Court

Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Feinstein, and Members of the Committee: thank you for the invitation to testify as you consider the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. I speak today on behalf of Human Rights First—an independent, non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to advancing American leadership on human rights. Our work is grounded in the belief that our nation is stronger—and safer— when we live up to our ideals.

In our nearly 40-year history, Human Rights First has never supported or opposed a judicial nominee, and we do not do so today. Nor do we question Judge Gorsuch’s temperament or credentials, which seem exemplary and have led a number of people I respect to support his nomination. Every judicial nominee deserves a fair hearing and an opportunity to fully explain his or her background, competence, and judicial philosophy.

This is an important part of the way our government works. The framers of our Constitution didn’t want any one branch of government to have too much power. That was wisdom born of experience. Our system of checks and balances is part of what sets our democracy apart from many of the countries that my organization works on every day, where strongman leaders rule with absolute authority. Our system may seem convoluted and inefficient at times: the President appoints judges and heads of government departments, but those appointments have to go through you; you can pass laws, but the President can veto them; the Supreme Court can find a law to be unconstitutional, but Congress and the States can amend the Constitution. This system depends on the independence—and interdependence—of each branch of government. It is our bulwark against tyranny.

That’s why I am here today. Because despite Judge Gorsuch’s professional and academic credentials, his record at the Department of Justice (DOJ) 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. Especially in the current environment, the stakes are too high to get this wrong.


Published on March 22, 2017


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