Former federal judge says Gorsuch appointment could benefit Utah

Posted at 10:08 PM, Jan 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-01 08:51:35-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- A prominent Utah legal scholar believes President Trump’s new Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, could be good for The Beehive State.

Paul Cassell is a professor at the S.J. Quinney School of Law at the University of Utah and a former federal judge.  He pointed to a hidden benefit to the nomination in bringing someone from the mountain west to the court.

"A lot of the land use issues that the Supreme Court decides are very important for us here in Utah but they involve issues that, frankly, are unfamiliar to people who grew up in New York City or San Francisco and so, someone who is an avid hunter, skier, fisherman, I think will be an important voice on some of those issues,” said Cassell.

Gorsuch spent the past decade serving as a justice of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.  He heard several cases from Utah, including Governor Herbert’s fight over defunding Planned Parenthood of Utah.  Gorsuch wanted a re-hearing in the lawsuit, but the court’s three-judge panel ultimately ruled against Governor Herbert.

Gorsuch also presided over Utah’s appeal of an ACLU lawsuit against the state recognizing same-sex marriages.  The state eventually dropped the case when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear its Appeal of Amendment Three.

“Judge Gorsuch is an originalist, in other words, he’s not going to try to remake the Constitution in his own image, he’s going to try and interpret it the way it was originally intended to be interpreted,” said Cassell.

Cassell suspected Gorsuch will closely follow the legal viewpoint of the late Antonin Scalia and may be critical of the landmark decision regarding abortion in Roe vs. Wade.  However, Cassell said as a general conservative justice, Gorsuch may not be willing to revisit an issue the court has previously decided.