From the cops policing our streets to the judges in our courts, our justice system is one of the most important demonstrations of fairness and equality for all Americans. We need a system that works for all its participants, not just the wealthy or the powerful in our society. And this must be reflected from our streets to the highest positions in the country, including and most especially the Supreme Court.
The Constitutional Responsibility Project lays out the basic standards for Supreme Court justices as such:
- They must be qualified, meeting the highest ethical standards and having the temperament to serve on our highest court.
- Their views must reflect the mainstream of constitutional law, our country’s legal traditions, and jurisprudence.
- They must believe that the Constitution applies to all of us, and protects the rights and freedoms of all Americans — not just the wealthy and powerful.
- And finally, they must be fair, approaching every case with an open mind and commitment to making decisions free of a political agenda.
If President Trump’s nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, should be confirmed for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, his record indicates that he would be a friend to corporate interests — when what we need is an independent check on corporate interests. For example, in the Hobby Lobby case, Judge Gorsuch ruled that private corporations are people — and that they enjoy the same constitutional protections as actual human beings. Astonishingly, Judge Gorsuch has also argued that it should be harder for regular people to band together in order to hold large corporations and Wall Street accountable for fraud and other wrongdoing.
In Hwang v. Kansas State University, Gorsuch argued that “the Rehabilitation Act seeks to prevent employers from callously denying reasonable accommodations that permit otherwise qualified disabled persons to work — not to turn employers into safety net providers for those who cannot work,” and ruled in favor of a university that refused to extend an employee’s paid leave benefits after she was diagnosed with cancer.
In TransAm Trucking, Inc. v. Admin. Review Bd, another egregious example of Gorsuch’s priorities, truck driver Alphonse Maddin was fired by his employer for abandoning a cargo-filled trailer after its brakes froze in subzero temperatures in Illinois. Alphonse waited for hours for a repair truck — without any heat in his cab, until his torso became numb, he had trouble breathing, and he lost feeling in his feet — before leaving. But, according to Judge Gorsuch, Alphonse should have remained with the trailer, putting his job ahead of his health, and perhaps even his life, and simply waited indefinitely for the repair truck to show up. Thankfully, Judge Gorsuch was in the minority, and the 10th Circuit of Appeals upheld the Department of Labor’s decision that Maddin was fired unfairly.
Judge Neil Gorsuch’s long record of ruling against workers and in favor of their employers proves that he is not a friend to the average American worker. If Gorsuch is confirmed, he will continue to prioritize corporate interests over worker protections. Now, more than ever, we need a justice who will serve as an independent check on corporate interests — and Gorsuch has proven that he is not that justice. I encourage my fellow Pennsylvanians to let both of our senators — Sen. Pat Toomey and Sen. Bob Casey Jr. — know that we reject Neil Gorsuch and the idea that huge corporations and special interests’ agendas should ever be put ahead of workers and ordinary Americans.
Kadida Kenner is the Campaign Manager for the Why Courts Matter – PA coalition, a project of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.