President Donald Trump is reportedly concerned that his Supreme Court pick Justice Neil Gorsuch is becoming more liberal.
Administration officials told The Washington Post the president complained after Gorsuch sided with the liberal wing of the high court against the administration in a case involving the deportation of a criminal legal immigrant.
The Post reported that Gorsuch’s choice to join with Justices Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor in the 5-4 decision “renewed (Trump’s) doubts that Gorsuch would be a reliable conservative.”
“One top Trump adviser played down the comments as unhappiness with Gorsuch’s decision rather than with Gorsuch broadly,” the paper added.
Last week’s decision upheld a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that determined the “crime of violence” language from the Immigration and Nationality Act is unconstitutionally vague.
The case in question centered on legal resident James Garcia Dimaya, who came to the U.S. from the Philippines in 1992 at the age of 13, according to KTLA.
In 2007 and 2009, he pleaded no contest to charges of residential burglary.
In 2010, the Obama administration brought removal proceedings against him, and an immigration court judge determined Dimaya was subject to removal because of his criminal convictions.
Lawyers for Dimaya appealed the decision to federal court in California, relying in part on an 8-1 majority 2015 opinion written by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who Gorsuch replaced, that found a provision in the Armed Career Criminal Act unconstitutionally vague.
During oral arguments for Dimaya’s case last fall, Gorsuch wondered how the court could define a crime of violence if Congress did not do so in the statute, USA Today reported.
“Even when it’s going to put people in prison and deprive them of liberty and result in deportation, we shouldn’t expect Congress to be able to specify those who are captured by its laws?” Gorsuch asked the Trump administration’s Deputy Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler.
In his concurring opinion last week, Gorsuch wrote that the provision in question invites “the exercise of arbitrary power…by leaving the people in the dark about what the law demands and allowing prosecutors and courts to make it up.”
In the dissenting opinion authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, the conservatives on the bench disagreed with Gorsuch’s view that the law is too vague.
Roberts, along Justices Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas contended that the “crime of violence” language calls for a “commonsense inquiry” by government officials into the “risk” created by the immigrant being in the country, based on the crime(s) he or she has committed.
After Trump nominated Gorsuch for the Supreme Court in early 2017, the political site FiveThirtyEight reported that the Coloradan’s record on immigration as a circuit court judge was “surprisingly moderate.”
However, he was one of three justices last June who would have let Trump’s second travel ban go into full effect, according to Reuters.
Gorsuch later voted with the majority (6-3) in allowing a limited version to do so.
The justice has consistently sided with conservatives since taking his place on the high court.
Slate reported earlier this month that Gorsuch votes with Thomas 88 percent of the time, while Scalia and Thomas voted together with 91 percent frequency.
In a speech to the Federalist Society in November, Gorsuch touted his Scalia-like approach to the law.
“Tonight,” he said to sustained applause, “I can report, a person can be both a committed originalist and textualist and be confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States.”
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