Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of First Liberty Institute, stopped by "The Glenn Beck Radio Program" Monday morning to preview Judge Neil Gorsuch's impending Senate confirmation hearing on his appointment to the Supreme Court. Gorsuch would fill the seat of Antonin Scalia, who passed away unexpectedly while on vacation in West Texas in February 2016.
Barack Obama and Senate Democrats attempted to fill the seat with their own nominee, Merrick Garland, but were blocked by the GOP under the leadership of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–KY). Garland's nomination was left pending for 293 days until it expired with the inauguration of a new Congress in January 2017; this delay was more than double the previous record, held by Louis Brandeis since 1916.
Shackleford shared his expectations for how Gorsuch might rule on issues relating to privacy and the Commerce Clause. He described Gorsuch as a judge who relies heavily on the wording and intent of both the Constitution and the statue in question and a staunch opponent of the doctrine of "Chevron deference."
This principle, named for the 1984 case Chevron U.S.A. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, urges courts to allow federal agencies broad discretion to interpret ambiguous statutes according to their own policy aims and technical understanding of each issue. Opponents of the doctrine claim it inverts the traditional separation of powers, while supporters argue it enables federal agencies to operate without constant interference from Congress and the delays it would introduce.
"He has been really strong in the other direction on that (principle) in saying, 'Oh no, that's not — you know, we protect our Constitution against these types of bureaucrats,'" Shackleford explained.
Shackleford also predicted another Supreme Court seat will be vacated this year, either through the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy or unexpected health troubles striking one of the court's more elderly members.
"I think we very well might have another one of this before a year from now," Shackleford said.