(Joe Hoft) – In his first day hearing Supreme Court arguments newly confirmed judge Neil Gorsuch instantly and with ease jumped in and began grilling attorneys with questions about statutory law and how it applied to their arguments.
The justices, with the exception of the usually silent Clarence Thomas, are known for their aggressive questioning, and Gorsuch showed no qualms about jumping right in. Eight times during the course of three one-hour arguments Gorsuch peppered attorneys with a series of pointed questions.
The court had its full complement of nine justices, five conservatives and four liberals, for arguments for the first time since Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February 2016.
Judge Gorsuch was welcomed to the bench but was not shy in his questioning:
Gorsuch asked a string of questions about complicated federal law. As he indicated during his Senate confirmation hearing last month, his line of inquiry focused on the text of a statute, an approach also embraced by Scalia and other conservative jurists.
“Wouldn’t it be a lot easier if we followed the plain text of the statute? What am I missing?” Gorsuch asked government lawyer Brian Fletcher in the employment case.
Judge Gorsuch asked 22 questions in total after waiting only 10 minutes before jumping in.
At one point, Christopher Landau, a Washington, D.C., lawyer representing a former federal worker trying to navigate a complicated law governing grievance procedures, said, “We’re not asking this court to break any new ground.”
“No, just to continue to make it up,” Gorsuch shot back with a grin, indicating he believed previous court decisions had strayed from the text of the law.
Judge Gorsuch said he would judge cases based on the law while not creating the law and he showed this in his questioning of attorneys presenting cases to the Court.