Plagiarism allegations have been leveled against Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, amid the Senate’s debate this week over the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge’s confirmation. Reports from Politico and BuzzFeed published late Tuesday night pointed to documents from which Gorsuch is accused of copying for his 2006 book and for an academic article in 2000. Gorsuch is said to have copied the ideas, structure and language of several other authors and to have failed to properly cite source material.
The documents show that several passages from a chapter in the book, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, read almost verbatim like a 1984 article in the Indiana Law Journal, leaving out only a few words and sentences.
The White House has defended Trump’s nominee, calling the allegations a “false attack.” And other Gorsuch supporters have said it’s a last-minute smear tactic against the judge from Democrats who are still reeling from losing the presidential election.
Some have questioned why these documents are surfacing now, amid the Senate showdown. But it remains to be seen whether the documents will raise questions about Gorsuch’s character and scholarship, and thus affect his confirmation.
Abigail Lawlis Kuzma, whose law review article Gorsuch supposedly lifted from, said in a statement she doesn’t see a problem, as the passages are factual, not analytical. “Given that these passages both describe the basic facts of the case, it would have been awkward and difficult for Judge Gorsuch to have used different language,” she said.
It’s likely that the accusations won’t have a dramatic effect on the Senate outcome. With 44 senators promising to join an ongoing filibuster, Democrats have secured enough support to block the judge, while Republicans—who hold a 52-48 majority—say they have enough members who will vote to change Senate rules by invoking the so-called nuclear option. Such a trigger would lower the number of votes needed to confirm the judge to a simple majority—to 51 votes from 60.
Republicans have repeatedly vowed to confirm Gorsuch by the time they break for their two-week spring recess on Friday. The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday advanced Gorsuch in an 11-9 vote along party lines.
Supporters of the Denver-based judge have repeatedly said he has a long record of exercising judicial restraint, respecting the law and upholding the Constitution—and that he was confirmed by the Senate to his federal judgeship with no Democratic opposition a decade ago, in 2006. Meanwhile, critics say Republicans are rushing through a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court before the American public is able to form a full picture of Gorsuch. Echoing Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, some have said the Republicans should instead work to find a nominee who can win bipartisan support, rather than breaking the rules.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday urged Democrats to change their minds about the filibuster, saying they are just being pressured by special interest groups. “Democrats would filibuster Ruth Bader Ginsburg if President Trump nominated her,” he said about one of the court’s current liberal justices. “We all know why. Democrats are bowing to hard-left special interests that can’t get over the results of the election and thus are demanding complete Democratic opposition to everything this president touches.”
This all comes as Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) filibustered on the chamber floor overnight Tuesday for more than 15 hours to protest Gorsuch. During his long speech, which he yielded just after 10 a.m. Wednesday, he highlighted the widely held Democratic belief that the Republicans stole a Supreme Court seat from former President Barack Obama. Top Republicans refused to give Judge Merrick Garland a hearing after Obama nominated him to the high court in March 2016.
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