When Gorsuch Promises “Equal Right to the Poor”

When he accepted the President’s nomination to Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch went out of his way to praise other judges for adhering to “their judicial oaths to administer justice equally, to rich and poor alike.”  Gorsuch’s understanding of that same oath could shape decades of precedent on everything from access to courts to the imposition of criminal fines. So, during his confirmation hearings, the Senate should ask Gorsuch what he understands his oath to mean—particularly the part about doing “equal right to the poor and to the rich.”

In a forthcoming article, I discuss the history of the judicial oath’s “equal right” principle, including its role in recent confirmation hearings. For instance, when then-Judge John Roberts was nominated to the Court, Senator Richard Durbin asked about the relationship between being a Justice and doing justice: should a federal judge “take into consideration that in our system of justice the race goes to the swift, and the swift are those with the resources, the money, the lawyers, the power in the system?” Roberts enthusiastically agreed, adding that “the judicial oath talks about doing justice without regard to persons, to rich and to poor.”

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Judge Gorsuch and the Federal Judicial Oath

President Trump is preparing to nominate someone to the US Supreme Court, presumably creating an opportunity for confirmation hearings to ventilate competing views of the judicial role. I have a draft paper that discusses one aspect of a judge’s duty: the federal judicial oath to do “equal right to the poor and to the rich.” It turns out that several of the reported front-runners have commented on this oath. Here, I’ll explore some interesting albeit brief published comments by the most recent figure to float to the top: Judge Neil Gorsuch of the Tenth Circuit.

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Narrowing Federal Jurisdictional Rules in Lightfoot

Last Wednesday, the Court issued an opinion in Lightfoot v. Cendant Mortgage Corp.—a case about federal jurisdiction that serves as a useful illustration of a distinctive way of using and modifying precedent: narrowingLightfoot is also interesting in raising the possibility that narrowing jurisdictional precedents might be a special undertaking that ought to be governed by distinctive principles.

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Filed under Judicial Rhetoric, Jurisdiction, Supreme Court

Will SCOTUS Finally Pick Up the PACER?

“At a time when almost every other federal court has a readily accessible electronic database, why can’t the Supreme Court?”

That was how I ended a post from August 2014. By then, it was already long past time for the Supreme Court to develop something like the PACER electronic docket system that has operated for many years in the lower federal courts.

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On “Scalia’s Jurisdiction”

Over at Jotwell I have a post discussing Fred Smith’s forthcoming paper “Undemocratic Restraint.”

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How Should We Imagine Perfect Surveillance?

With governmental surveillance becoming ever more ubiquitous, detailed, and automated, it’s become possible to imagine a regime of perfect surveillance, or an essentially boundless ability to detect crimes. Of course, perfect surveillance is now and may always remain hypothetical. But the prospect of digital panopticism is salient enough to appear in debates about real-life problems, and thinking about the extreme case of surveillance perfection might be a useful way of illuminating features of our more mundane reality. So the question arises: How might perfect surveillance alter our world?

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More SCOTUS Repeaters

Longtime readers may be interested in my recent essay on SCOTUS Repeaters, or cases that the US Supreme Court hears more than once. Here’s how my essay starts:

It’s every academic blogger’s dream to prompt an empirical study. Well, maybe not. But it was my dream, and Jason Iuliano and Ya Sheng Lin have made it a reality.

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