In a 2016 address, Neil Gorsuch said one of the most critical legacies of former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is that he continually reminded us of the difference between legislators and judges. This is a good thing. And while citizens of our state and nation need more civic education, sadly, so do many lawmakers and judges.
Two cases the high court might rule on have been a rallying cry for division and partisanship in our state: a mandate by a federal Court of Appeals to redraw some electoral districts and hold a special election, as well as whether gender identity issues pose broader rights than state and local governments currently recognize. North Carolinians face many diverging political directions going forward, but we should be allowed to make those decisions for ourselves.
Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court is a boon for federalism and self-government. And one of the principal threats to “government by the people” is that too many laws have been overturned after being passed by our General Assembly and the previous governor. Judicial activism not only invalidates the proper role of checks and balances, but directly usurps power from the voters.
“American liberals have become addicted to the courtroom, relying on judges and lawyers rather than elected leaders and the ballot box,” wrote Gorsuch in a 2005 article in National Review. Gorsuch went on to warn “this addiction” harms the country and judiciary. The rule of law is threatened when judges replace public debate and the legislative process by activist decrees. “Judges distinguish themselves from politicians by the oath they take to apply the law as it is, not to reshape the law as they wish it to be,” wrote Gorsuch.
Gorsuch is receiving considerable praise, even from those who do not share his legal philosophy of judicial restraint. This is a testament to his character and judicial independence.
Even if he is approved by the Senate, it will mean only a minimal shift to the power balance. Like Scalia, he’s praised for his legal writing, which is good news for a nation starved of civic education. When I was in seminary, they stressed the importance of staying true to the meaning of the Biblical text. It should be true too for how our judiciary interprets law. It’s a necessity not just for tipping the balance of power from Washington and back to North Carolina, but in reviving a Constitution on life support.
Ray Nothstine is a member of the North State Journal’s editorial board, separate from the news staff. Unlike other newspapers, the North State Journal does not publish unsigned editorials; the author or authors of every editorial, letter, op-ed, and column is prominently displayed. To submit a letter or op-ed, see our submission guidelines.