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The president may not be a fan of the press. But his new Supreme Court pick sure seems to be.

President Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch Tuesday night to succeed Justice Antonin Scalia, whose seat on the nation’s highest bench has remained vacant since his death in February 2016.

Gorsuch, a 49-year-old judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, is a former journalist with a long judicial record of supporting freedom of the press.

Before attending Harvard Law and embarking on a legal career, Gorsuch studied at Columbia University, where he wrote columns for the student newspaper, the Columbia Daily Spectator, and co-founded an alternative student newspaper, The Fed.

As a federal appellate judge, Gorsuch has ruled in favor of the press in several lawsuits. His judicial record is a stark contrast to Trump’s views on media law, particularly on libel. The Republican president has excoriated the press for publishing stories critical of him, calling them “fake news.” During his presidential campaign, Trump vowed, “We’re going to open up libel laws, and we’re going to have people sue you like you’ve never got sued before.”

But, it might be a bit more difficult to do that with Gorsuch on the Supreme Court.

Gorsuch’s record indicates he’s a pro-journalism judge.

For example, in a celebrated win for student media, Gorsuch joined the Tenth Circuit in ruling that a college journalist had his constitutional rights violated when police searched his home and confiscated his computer after a professor complained he was libeled by the student’s satirical newsletter.

In his concurrence in the 2010 case, Mink v. Knox, Gorsuch wrote that a previous decision had “established in this circuit the rule that the First Amendment precludes defamation actions aimed at parody, even parody causing injury to individuals who are not public figures or involved in a public controversy.”

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Ultimately, law enforcement officials paid the student scribe $425,000 to settle the case. The American Civil Liberties Union, Student PressLaw Center and Foundation for Individual Rights in Education all lauded the court’s decision.

In a 2007 case, Alvarado v. KOB-TV, Gorsuch and the Court ruled that a story’s newsworthiness outweighed a subject’s right to privacy. Two Albuquerque policemen sued a local television station for invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress for reporting that they were being investigated for sexual assault. Although the two officers were never charged and an investigation eventually cleared them of wrongdoing, the court ruled that the public has a legitimate interest in stories about allegations of police misconduct.

In a 2011 case, Bustos v. A&E, Gorsuch’s journalism roots really shined through. He and his colleagues ruled that cable television network A&E did not defame a man when it identified him as being part of a white supremacist group in a History Channel documentary. Although the plaintiff conspired with the Aryan Brotherhood, he said he was not a member and the misidentification caused him to receive threats from both the gang and its rivals.

But Gorsuch dismissed the libel lawsuit, explaining, “While the statement may cause you a world of trouble, while it may not be precisely true, it is substantially true. And that is enough to call an end to this litigation as a matter of law.”

Gorsuch’s opinion is notable not just because of how he ruled, but also how he expressed it. While court opinions tend to be bland, Denver Post federal courts reporter John Ingold noted that, “The opinion is filled with witticisms, clever hypotheticals, intriguing details about prison life and generally enjoyable recountings of events.”

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It appears that the writing skills Gorsuch acquired while working on the school newspaper have taught him life-long lessons he can now use to write landmark decisions. How fitting that he’ll succeed Scalia, a jurist known for writing colorful opinions.

Mark Grabowski (@ProfGrabowski) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is a journalism professor at Adelphi University in Garden City, N.Y. and has a law degree from Georgetown Law.

If you would like to write an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, please read our guidelines on submissions here.

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