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Donald Trump

Donald Trump announces Neil Gorsuch as US Supreme Court nominee in live telecast

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 February, 2017, 8:46am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 February, 2017, 11:35am

US President Donald Trump has announced his nominee to sit on the US Supreme Court in a prime-time telecast that gave the process the aura of a reality TV drama.

Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch, 49, a respected appellate court judge who is considered an ideological match to the late Antonin Scalia, and just as a strict .

Trump’s pick to fill the long-vacant ninth position on the bench, which he made at 9am Wednesday Hong Kong time (8pm Tuesday Eastern Time), will swing the court in conservatives’ favour - with significant ramifications for issues from gender rights to gun control.

For the new Republican leader, the selection is part of a tacit election compact with conservatives, some of whom reluctantly backed him after he promised to choose an anti-abortion, pro-gun justice.

Gorsuch is the youngest Supreme Court nominee in a quarter century. He’s distinguished himself on the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals with his clear, colloquial writing, advocacy for court review of government regulations, defence of religious freedom and scepticism toward law enforcement.

Profile: US Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch

“Judge Gorsuch has outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, tremendous discipline and has earned bipartisan support,” Trump said, announcing the nomination in his first televised address from the White House.

Gorsuch’s nomination was cheered by conservatives wary of Trump’s own fluid ideology. If confirmed by the Senate, he will fill the seat left vacant by the death last April of Scalia, long the right’s most powerful voice on the high court.

Trump had previously described his deliberations as a “very big decision” and said the pick was someone “unbelievably highly respected.”

“Depending on their age, a justice can be active for 50 years. And his or her decisions can last a century or more, and can often be permanent,” Trump said at the announcement.

The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of many of the most sensitive issues of American life and law.

Its members, who must be confirmed by the Senate, are named to life terms so their influence is long-lasting.

Trump had said he would announce his pick on Thursday, but then moved the date up amid a raging controversy over his short term ban on travellers from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Gorsuch was among the 21 possible choices for the court Trump released during the campaign. Other finalists also came from that list, including Thomas Hardiman, who serves alongside Trump’s sister on the Philadelphia-based 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals, and William Pryor, a federal appeals court judge and Alabama’s attorney general from 1997 to 2004.

Pryor’s standing slipped in the lead up to the announcement, in part because his reputation as a staunch conservative seems likely to make him a rich target for Democratic senators in a confirmation hearing.

Yet Gorsuch, too, is expected to face intense scrutiny from Democrats. Some liberals have demanded that Democrats block any Trump choice, underscoring the deep partisan discord surging through Washington.

“Now is not the time for business as usual,” MoveOn.org’s Ilya Sheyman said in a statement.

Gorsuch is a Colorado native who earned his bachelor’s degree from Columbia University in three years, then a law degree from Harvard. He clerked for Supreme Court Justices Byron White, a fellow Coloradan, and Anthony Kennedy before earning a philosophy degree at Oxford University and working for a prominent Washington, D.C., law firm.

He served for two years in President George W. Bush’s Department of Justice before the president nominated him to the appeals court.

Additional reporting by Associated Press