President Trump won over many wary conservatives last fall when he pledged to nominate conservative, textualist, justices to the Supreme Court. He underscored his seriousness by releasing a list of 20 sterling names from which he would make his choice. And now, as president, he has shown good judgment by making federal judge Neil Gorsuch the apparent front-runner.

Gorsuch is the right judge to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Antonin Scalia, who was a towering figure on the Supreme Court for three decades. Gorsuch espouses the judicial restraint and practices the same sort of jurisprudence as Scalia. He is rigorous in sticking to the text of legislation and of the Constitution, and avoiding the urge to act as a super-legislator. He has written plainly on the need for judges to avoid politicization, lamenting that when they are regarded as “little more than politicians with robes” they are subjected to ideological litmus tests wholly inappropriate for their branch of the federal government.

Gorsuch was nominated to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals by President George W. Bush, was confirmed unanimously by voice vote, and was rated unanimously “well qualified” by the American Bar Association. He has written more than 175 published majority opinions and 65 concurrences and dissents.

He is a graduate of Columbia, Harvard and Oxford Universities, and his facility in argument is exceptional. He lays out his thoughts sharply, clearly and analytically, in prose that is mercifully un-lawyerly. Just as Scalia wrote opinions and memorable dissents that could persuade and embolden the public, Gorsuch’s decisions are accessible and convincing to the layman.

Gorsuch has ruled on religious liberty cases and an abortion-related case, and he has argued consistently against the arbitrary exercise of power by government. He’s gotten his hands on the Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor cases, in the latter of which he joined the dissent saying, “The opinion of the panel majority is clearly and gravely wrong — on an issue that has little to do with contraception and a great deal to do with religious liberty. When a law demands that a person do something the person considers sinful, and the penalty for refusal is a large financial penalty, then the law imposes a substantial burden on that person’s free exercise of religion.”

Perhaps Gorsuch’s most interesting religious case was Yellowbear v. Lampert which involved a native American man in prison for murdering his daughter. The prisoner sued for access to a prison sweat lodge, and Gorsuch laid out a clear and convincing case for greater deference to religious liberty and less to the state.

With Democrats someday certain again to control the federal government, Gorsuch’s work to expand the sphere of freedom and the protections for conscience is among the most important work that can be done.

Conservatives of a certain age rightfully distrust supposedly conservative nominees to the high court. Republican presidents in recent decades nominated two full-fledged liberals (John Paul Stevens and David Souter) and two mercurial centrists (Anthony Kennedy and Sandra Day O’Connor).

One thing we’ve learned: The near-absolute power of the high court can corrupt even a good conservative. The best inoculation against this corruption is a battle-hardened justice who eschews ideology and hews to the text of the Constitution. Gorsuch has shown a willingness to swim against the tide. His 2009 book, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia is meticulous and rigorous, and also clear in its conclusion that society should not descend down that dangerous path.

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Ed Whalen, president of the Ethics & Public Policy Center, an admirer and recently a vigorous defender of Gorsuch against shabby smears, last week wrote that “the proper lesson to draw from the mix of failures and successes [of Republican presidents trying to nominate conservatives] is that judicial philosophy and character are what really count.”

You never know for sure how a judge will rule before a case is heard. But you can get a good idea, from how he rules and how he writes, about where his head and heart are, and where his learning leads him. With that in mind, it cannot be in doubt that Gorsuch would be an excellent addition to the highest court in the land.

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