A Letter to Neil Gorsuch - By Leon Lin
Dear Honorable Judge Gorsuch,
Congratulations on receiving your nomination to the Supreme Court. As a first-year law student, I can only imagine what a great honor it must be to be tapped for the most prestigious legal position within the United States of America. However, as Justice Elena Kagan recently quoted in her opinion on Kimble v. Marvel Entertainment, LLC, “Amazing Fantasy No. 15: ‘Spider–Man,’ p. 13 (1962) ‘In this world, with great power there must also come—great responsibility.’”
I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you this, but the position you have been nominated to hold will play one of the most critical roles in the years to come. You have been chosen to serve on the Court at one of the most turbulent times in recent legal history. A time when a President directly attacked your fellow brothers and sisters of the robe, calling one a “so-called judge” and attacking another for his Mexican heritage. A time when a President bypassed all normal legislative means to pass an immigration ban which initially barred legal visa holders and green-card residents of the United States from coming home to their friends and families. A time when because said order was unanimously struck down by the Ninth-Circuit Court due to the lack of relevant facts, a President questioned the rationality of the Court despite its lengthy opinion laying down the logical reasoning behind its decision.
Let’s be honest: you and I do not see eye to eye on many political issues and legal decisions. In Planned Parenthood Association of Utah v. Herbert, you wrote a dissenting opinion regarding the Utah governor’s right to defund Planned Parenthood. In Hobby Lobby Stores v. Sebelius, you upheld the decision to excuse employer’s insurance policies from covering all birth control as an exercise of religious freedom. In Williams v. Jones, you dissented and held that a defendant, betrayed by his own legal counsel, should not have the right to file legal claims against the lawyer, as the Sixth Amendment’s due process clause “guarantees a fair trial, not a good bargain.”
But you know what? That’s okay. That’s the beauty of our legal system. That’s what we learn as lawyers on our first day in law school: to argue, to represent your side as best you can, and to fairly consider the arguments of the other side. Much like the late and venerable Justice Scalia, your legal opinions are filled with such great arguments (who can forget the legendary passion of Scalia’s dissents or the infamous “broccoli” question that bamboozled even the great Attorney General of the United States?) Even if I vehemently disagree with your outcomes, I profoundly respect the careful thought and clear legal standards you express in your statements.
However, soon you may find yourself in a position where those clear standards will be tested, perhaps by none other than the most powerful man in this country. They will question, they will prod, they will threaten, and they will insult your judiciary decisions, your character, and your legal persona. It is at this time that you must hold firm to those teachings instilled upon us lawyers from our very first day of Constitutional Law class: the checks and balances inherent within the separation of powers. The separation of powers instilled within the legislative, executive and judiciary branch of the federal government has been the foundation upon which this great nation has thrived upon, and it is this great mantle of power which will allow you to defend our country’s Constitution from those seeking to dismantle its infrastructure.
You’re certainly no stranger to this notion of separation of powers. In Gutierrez-Brizeula v. Lynch, you held against the judicial policy commonly known as “Chevron Deference,” a doctrine passed down from the Chevron USA Inc, v. Natural Resources Defenses Council, Inc. Supreme Court case which gave massive power to federal agencies in interpreting their own statutes. Your dissenting opinion in Gutierrez-Brizeula stated that it was time for courts to “face the behemoth” of federal agency power. Chevron Deference, in your opinion, was none other than a policy which allowed for “executive bureaucracies to swallow huge amounts of core judicial and legislative power and concentrate federal power in a way that seems more than a little difficult to square with the Constitution of the framers’ design.”
Well, the time to defend your own words has come and the lines will soon be drawn Judge Gorsuch. President Trump’s recent attacks on the judiciary are only a small inkling of what is to come with regards to the infringement of federal judiciary power. Undoubtedly it is a terrifying experience to stand a guardian of the Founders’ intents when faced against a man who has elevated your career to the Supreme Court. Yet it is a duty that you have not only a moral obligation towards but also a sworn oath to defend. It started upon that very first day you took office on that Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, swearing to “faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me…under the Constitution and laws of the United States.” 28 U.S.C § 453. The looming question for you to decide, Judge Gorsuch, is where you would have that duty end.
With all due respect,
Yunzhi Leon Lin