Published: Thu, April 20, 2017
U.S. | By Monique Johnson

Justice Gorsuch Jumps Right Into Questioning In Supreme Court Debut


The Supreme Court's newest justice took the bench on Monday and began asking questions less than 15 minutes after oral arguments began. Gorsuch and his colleagues were hearing arguments Monday for the first time since President Donald Trump's pick was sworn in April 10.

"The court first heard a case that presented "a technical but important question about appeals from decisions by the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), which reviews federal employees" claims that they were wrongly fired, suspended or demoted".

"I apologize for taking up so much time", the black-robed Gorsuch said, sitting back in his high-backed chair and smiling.

Reuters deemed Gorsuch "a frequent and energetic questioner" and said he "exhibited composure and confidence" during the arguments.

The other two cases the justices will hear Monday involve a property dispute and the timing of securities class-action lawsuits. As practiced by Scalia during his three decades on the Supreme Court, this conservative approach is sometimes summed up as "textualism".

Gorsuch was a less enthusiastic participant in the next two arguments, but he again focused on the "plain language" of the statutes in his questioning.

Katyal told the court this morning that intervenors should be held to the same standing demands as plaintiffs to keep them from hijacking cases for their own interests.

Gorsuch reportedly skipped a private conference among the justices last week so that he could be well prepared for this week's arguments. It's among the first cases Justice Neil Gorsuch will hear since his appointment. The question is whether the SEC is bound by a five-year statute of limitations when it seeks "disgorgement", or the return of illegal profits.

Some were watching to see if Gorsuch might recuse himself; he had routinely done so as a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit when his former law firm had a case there or a controversy involved someone he knew.

Missouri's new governor, Republican Eric Greitens, injected some uncertainty into the high court case on Thursday, when he directed state agencies to allow religious groups and schools to receive taxpayer money for playgrounds and other purposes.

At the start of the day's proceedings, the chief justice welcomed Gorsuch, nominated by President Trump to fill the seat left vacant by Scalia's death in February 2016.

But the new justice was there, beaming as he and his colleagues took the bench, seemingly eager to prove he was ready for the job ― and every now and then reminding observers of the justice he replaced, Antonin Scalia. "Who wrote this statute?"

The junior justice on the Supreme Court has a number of duties created to serve as a reminder of their status as well as help them get accustomed to the job. Speaking for all, Justice Samuel Alito called the law in question "unbelievably complicated" and hard to parse.

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