ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The grilling began on Capitol Hill as Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch went before the Senate Judiciary Committee. While the nation is looking at his decisions, New Mexico has already experienced many of them.
Not since Sandra Day O’Connor has a Supreme Court pick come from the Southwest, but with Judge Gorsuch serving on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals out of Denver for almost 11 years, this is the first time a nominee has had rulings that have directly affected New Mexico.
Gorsuch promised, if he’s confirmed, he’ll be “independent” on the nation’s highest court.
“I’ve served with judges appointed by President Obama all the way back to President Johnson,” he noted. “We listen to one another, respectfully. We tolerate. We cherish different points of view. And, we seek consensus whenever we can,” Gorsuch said.
He and his colleagues have agreed and disagreed when it comes to New Mexico cases.
In 2005, Jason Kerns, a military-trained marksman, was accused of shooting at a police helicopter. Charges were dropped, but Kerns later sued the officers saying his rights were violated when they obtained copies of his hospital records.
Gorsuch sided with police. One judge dissented.
However, Gorsuch did not side with school authorities in the case of the burping Albuquerque Cleveland Middle School seventh-grader, who was handcuffed and arrested. Gorsuch went against his colleagues who ruled the school’s actions justified. Dissenting, Gorsuch argued the school was out of line.
“If a seventh grader starts trading fake burps for laughs in gym class, what’s a teacher to do? Order extra laps? Detention? A trip to the principal’s office? Maybe. But then again, maybe that’s too old school. Maybe today you call a police officer. And maybe today the officer decides that, instead of just escorting the now compliant thirteen year old to the principal’s office, an arrest would be a better idea. So out come the handcuffs and off goes the child to juvenile detention. My colleagues suggest the law permits exactly this option and they offer ninety-four pages explaining why they think that’s so. Respectfully, I remain unpersuaded,” Gorsuch wrote in his dissent.
In December, the Tenth Circuit had a huge ruling affecting Albuquerque, helping give the green light to Albuquerque Rapid Transit when opponents had hoped the Denver-based court would stop it. Gorsuch, however, was not part of that three-judge panel decision.