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College roommate of Trumps Supreme Court nominee says Gorsuch not anti-gay

(February 24, 2017) — The Columbus Lawyers Chapter might not have been able to get Judge Neil Gorsuch to make an appearance, but they invited three of the next best people to a luncheon panel Friday.

President Donald Trump has nominated Gorsuch to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Eric Tung, an attorney who clerked for both Gorsuch and Scalia, offered his perspective on how the two vary.

“There’s this common bond between the two men in terms of judicial philosophy and the idea of following the law, following the text,” Tung said.

“In terms of philosophy they’re very similar. In terms of tone, I think they’re different.”

Both Gorsuch and Scalia subscribe to theories of constitutional interpretation called originalism and textualism. Essentially, they interpret the law as it is written with ordinary meaning. The body of thought is favored among conservatives and strict constructionists.

James Saywell has yet to meet Gorsuch, but has studied his opinions at length. He believes there are three issues most likely to be examined under Gorsuch’s probable appointment to the bench: over-criminalization, the size of the administrative state and religious liberty versus non-discrimination.

“He’s written about how state law and the state should have a proper role in society and that the federal government’s taking over that role a little too much,” Saywell said, in regard to the first issue, which he believes is closely related to the second.

“I think Judge Gorsuch is going to care really deeply about the relationship between the branches, and limit the executive power when it comes to really exercising what is in fact legislative or judicial power.”

Saywell said Gorsuch has almost uniformly, if not entirely, come down on the side of religious liberty in previous opinions. But Gorsuch’s former law school roommate, Matthew Kairis, was also on the panel, and said the judge has strong relationships with LGBT people.

“The people who lived in the house were all over the political spectrum,” Kairis said, referencing the housemates from their time at Harvard Law School. Gorsuch graduated in 1991.

“All of us have rallied behind Neil. I’ve heard a lot of criticism on what Neil’s views on gay issues might be. Three of those housemates are gay.”

While Gorsuch and Scalia may be alike in principle, Tung said they differ in tone and demeanor, citing Gorsuch’s humility, his collegial attitude with his legal peers and his willingness to compromise.

“He knows what he doesn’t know,” Tung said.

“He is an avid questioner and he goes into arguments truly with an open mind, trying to figure out what the right legal answer is.”

All of these qualities lead to a potential justice who would not always bend to Trump’s will, Saywell predicts.

“I think Judge Gorsuch is someone who will apply the law, and if that leads him to a result that goes against what President Trump does or wants, he’s going to strike that down,” Saywell said.

“For a reasonable Democrat, this has to be the best nomination you could hope for. Sure he’s an originalist, sure he’s a textualist, but he’s also someone who’s going to objectively apply the law.”