Does Judge Neil Gorsuch Defend Corporations at the Expense of Average Citizens?
Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s nominee for the vacant seat on the Supreme Court, is a man who judges according to the law as it is written, not according to his personal beliefs, writes John Murdock in an article for The Stream.org.
Gorsuch has been undergoing his Senate confirmation hearing this week. Many Democrats claim that Gorsuch has a record of defending big corporations over the average citizen. They especially like to point to the case of the so-called “frozen trucker.” Murdock, however, argues that Gorsuch’s ruling in this case shows he is a judge of integrity.
The “frozen trucker” case involves a truck driver, Alphonse Maddin, who worked for TransAm Trucking. Maddin’s truck was low on fuel, his trailer brakes were locked up, and the cab heater was broken. He was stranded on the interstate in freezing weather. TransAm told Maddin to stay put, which he did for several hours, but eventually he drove somewhere to refuel and to get warm. TransAm ended up firing Maddin for this breach of following directions.
While serving on Colorado’s Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, Gorsuch heard Maddin’s case against TransAm and upheld TransAm’s right to fire Maddin, although Gorsuch was ultimately in the minority and Maddin's case won the day. At first glance, this may seem like ample reason why many argue that Gorsuch has supported the interests of big business instead of defending the average citizen, but there is more to the story.
The relevant law in the case was a narrow provision of a federal law which states that a company cannot fire an employee for refusing to get behind the wheel of a vehicle he or she found to be unsafe. The problem was, however, that Maddin had refused orders not to get behind the wheel and had driven the truck to a place where he was able to refuel and get warm.
The case is complicated by the fact that nearly everyone agreed that TransAm had acted unfairly toward Maddin, given the circumstances. Gorsuch, in his dissent, acknowledged that TransAm’s decision was likely not a “wise or kind one.” However, he ruled that, though it may have been unkind and unwise for TransAm to fire Maddin, it was not illegal, according to the law.
This attention to the letter of the law is something to be praised in a judge, according to Murdock. “Gorsuch is committed to facts, not feelings,” he writes, adding that he hopes Gorsuch the person would help Maddin as a fellow citizen, but “As a judge, though, I would prefer to have on the Supreme Court one who is willing to endure a frustrating but legally correct result over someone who takes it upon himself to right every wrong according his own moral compass. Neil Gorsuch appears to be just such a disciplined justice.”
Photo: Judge Neil Gorsuch testifies during the third day of his Supreme Court confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, March 22, 2017 in Washington. Gorsuch was nominated by President Donald Trump to fill the vacancy left on the court by the February 2016 death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.
Photo courtesy: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Publication date: March 24, 2017