WASHINGTON, DC (WTVD) --President Donald Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch, a fast-rising conservative judge with a writer's flair, to the Supreme Court on Tuesday, a selection expected to spark a fierce fight with Democrats over a jurist who could shape America's legal landscape for decades to come.
At 49, 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, defense of religious freedom and skepticism toward law enforcement.
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"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 year of Antonin Scalia, long the right's most powerful voice on the high court.
Two finalists for the high court slot - Gorsuch and Thomas Hardiman - were both summoned to Washington ahead of Tuesday's announcement, adding a dash of drama to the announcement from the reality television star turned president. Their travel to Washington was confirmed by a White House official, who was not authorized to discuss the Supreme Court pick and insisted on remaining anonymous.
"Judge Neil Gorsuch is an incredibly qualified and mainstream choice to serve on the Supreme Court," said Sen. Thom Tillis, R-NC. "He has proven himself to be a judge who approaches every case before him with fairness, and bases his decisions on the rule of law. I hope my colleagues in the Senate, regardless of party, will join me in thoughtfully considering Judge Gorsuch as our next Supreme Court Justice."
Gorsuch is a judge who will continue to operate in accordance with the rule of law and respect for the Constitution. #SCOTUS— Richard Burr (@SenatorBurr) February 1, 2017
Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, reacted with guarded optimism.
"Though I wish the President had taken the time to review a larger set of judicial candidates than the ones recommended by conservative advocacy organizations, Judge Neil Gorsuch has an impressive résumé and academic background," Warner said. "However, his record must be thoroughly vetted to ensure his views and judicial philosophy are not out of the mainstream. I look forward to carefully reviewing Judge Gorsuch's qualifications before deciding whether I believe he is fit to serve on our nation's highest court."
North Carolina Democratic Rep. Alma Adams struck a more pessimistic note.
"Based off of Judge Gorsuch's past judicial record, I have deep concerns he will put big business ahead of the rights of American workers and attack woman's choice," Adams said. "We must ensure a thorough vetting process that includes rigorous debate and demand a 60 vote threshold on confirmation of this nominee."
The NCGOP referred to Gorsuch as a "mainstream conservative."
"Tonight, President Trump fulfilled one of his biggest campaign promises to the American people by selecting Neil Gorsuch, a mainstream conservative to serve on the United States Supreme Court. I am confident Gorsuch will faithfully uphold the Constitution, protect our individual rights, and preserve the idea of limited government," said Robin Hayes, chairman of the NCGOP.
Sen. Richard Burr, R-NC, applauded the choice.
"In 2006, the Senate confirmed (Gorsuch) without opposition to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit," Burr said. "Gorsuch is a judge who will continue to operate in accordance with the rule of law and respect for the Constitution."
Burr also said he is hopeful the Senate will swiftly confirm Gorsuch.
Congressman Robert Pittenger (R-NC 9th District) also weighed in on the nomination.
"President Trump has selected an exceptionally qualified jurist who adheres to the original intent of the writers of the Constitution," Pittenger said. "He believes the role of the court is not to make law, but to interpret the law. Judge Gorsuch's disciplined understanding of separation of powers is a refreshing contrast to progressives who have interpreted a living document, which would ebb and flow with cultural trends."
The North Carolina Values Coalition released a statement Tuesday night expressing delight with Trump's nomination of Judge Gorsuch.
"The NC Values Coalition is thrilled by President Trump's nomination tonight of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia," said Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of NCVC. "All North Carolinians should appreciate Judge Gorsuch's immense respect for our founding documents and his support for the values of life, liberty and religious freedom. Like Justice Scalia, Judge Gorsuch is an exceptionally strong originalist constitutional jurist who strongly dislikes judicial activism."
The judges appeared on Trump's list of 21 possible choices that he made public during the campaign, and each has met with him to discuss the vacancy that arose when Antonin Scalia died nearly a year ago.
Trump's pick will restore a general conservative tilt to the court but is not expected to call into question high-profile rulings on abortion, gay marriage and other issues in which the court has been divided 5-4 in recent years.
Gorsuch served for two years in Bush's Department of Justice before the president appointed him to an appeals court seat. There he has been known for clear, colloquial writing, advocacy for court review of government regulations, defense of religious freedom and skepticism toward law enforcement.
He has contended that courts give too much deference to government agencies' interpretations of statutes, a deference that stems from a Supreme Court ruling in a 1984 case. He also sided with two groups that successfully challenged the Obama administration's requirements that employers provide health insurance that includes contraception.
The ninth seat on the Supreme Court has sat empty since Scalia died in February 2016. President Barack Obama nominated U.S. Circuit Court Judge Merrick Garland for the vacancy, but Senate Republicans refused to consider the pick, saying the seat should be filled only after the November election.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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