Seven Cases Where the Supreme Court Sided With Neil Gorsuch (And One Time it Didn’t)

By Hannah RechtHannah Recht
February 2, 2017

President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, a George W. Bush appointee who joined the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver in 2006, will likely restore the ideological balance that existed prior to the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. On cases ranging from religious liberty to the death penalty, his opinions have been in line with decisions passed down by the Supreme Court. Out of at least eight cases that Gorsuch ruled on from the 10th Circuit that then went to the Supreme Court for review, the Court’s opinion matched Gorsuch’s in seven of the cases. This includes three cases decided by a 5 to 4 vote—most notably a landmark 2014 decision that let companies opt out of contraceptive requirements in the Affordable Care Act on religious grounds.

Pleasant Grove City, Utah et al. v. Summum, Supreme Court opinion in 2009
Check markSided with Gorsuch
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Summum, a Utah church, sought to display a monument in a Pleasant Grove City public park alongside an existing monument of the Ten Commandments. The justices unanimously reversed a 10th Circuit ruling that required Summum to be given equal access to the park. Gorsuch had voted to reconsider the 10th Circuit ruling.

Brian Russell Dolan v. United States, 2010
Check markSided with Gorsuch
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Red X signifying noDisagreed with Gorsuch
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The Supreme Court ruled that criminals can be ordered to pay restitution even when the sentencing court misses a 90-day deadline to do so, affirming Gorsuch's appeals court opinion that said, “It would be a strange thing indeed if a bureaucracy or court could avoid a congressional mandate by unlawful delay.”

Tarrant Regional Water District, Petitioner v. Rudolf John Herrmann, et al., 2013
Check markSided with Gorsuch
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The Tarrant Regional Water District of Texas argued that Oklahoma couldn't bar it from taking water located in Oklahoma. The District Court ruled that a regional water-use compact didn't override Oklahoma's control of its water, and Oklahoma's water laws don't discriminate against interstate commerce. Gorsuch joined a Tenth Circuit ruling affirming that finding, and the Supreme Court agreed.

Loughrin v. United States, 2014
Check markSided with Gorsuch
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The Supreme Court unanimously affirmed lower courts' rulings that federal prosecutors don't have to prove that defendants in bank-fraud cases intended to defraud a bank. Gorsuch joined the Tenth Circuit opinion.

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, 2014
Check markSided with Gorsuch
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Red X signifying noDisagreed with Gorsuch
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The Supreme Court ruled that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act gave closely held companies the right to opt out an Obamacare requirement that they provide contraceptive coverage to their workers. The decision upheld a Tenth Circuit ruling that Gorsuch had joined. In a separate opinion, Gorsuch wrote: “The [Religious Freedom Restoration] Act doesn’t just apply to protect popular religious beliefs: it does perhaps its most important work in protecting unpopular religious beliefs, vindicating this nation’s long-held aspiration to serve as a refuge of religious tolerance...As we have seen, it is not for secular courts to rewrite the religious complaint of a faithful adherent, or to decide whether a religious teaching about complicity imposes ‘too much’ moral disapproval on those only ‘indirectly’ assisting wrongful conduct.”

Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl, 2015
Red X signifying noDisagreed with Gorsuch
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A trade association sought to challenge a Colorado law that imposed reporting requirements on internet retailers in an effort to get customers to pay the sales taxes they owe. Gorsuch joined a three-judge panel saying the lawsuit was barred under the Tax Injunction Act. The Supreme Court unanimously reversed.

Glossip v. Gross, 2015
Check markSided with Gorsuch
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Red X signifying noDisagreed with Gorsuch
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Death-row inmates challenged Oklahoma's use of the sedative midazolam in lethal injections, saying they were at risk of being subjected to extreme pain. Gorsuch joined a Tenth Circuit panel permitting the drug, and a divided Supreme Court agreed.

Nichols v. United States, 2016
Check markSided with Gorsuch
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The Tenth Circuit held that Nichols had violated the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act when he left the country without updating his registration. Gorsuch voted to have the Tenth Circuit reconsider that ruling. He wrote: “If the separation of powers means anything, it must mean that the prosecutor isn’t allowed to define the crimes he gets to enforce. Yet, that’s precisely the arrangement the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act purports to allow in this case and a great many more like it.” The Tenth Circuit refused, but the Supreme Court reversed the appeals court.