Gorsuch asks his first questions from Supreme Court bench

And then there were nine.

During his first week as a Supreme Court Judge, Justice Neil Gorsuch will hear a religious liberty case from Missouri. Indeed, the case wasn't scheduled for argument until after President Donald Trump nominated Gorsuch for the seat.

The justices sit by order of seniority, with the two longest-serving members of the court flanking the chief justice.

It was the first of three hour-long arguments the high court was set to hear on Monday.

Perry v Merit Systems Protection Board is asking the high court to rule on whether a case which involves both local and federal claims must be heard in the U.S. Court of Appeals or if those cases can be heard in a lower district court on appeal. Gorsuch asked the worker's lawyer Christopher Landau four questions in a row about the wording of a statute, saying he was "sorry for taking up so much time".

Gorsuch repeatedly suggested it would be "a lot simpler" or "a lot easier if we just follow the text of the statute". "What am I missing?"

Putting rumors of a first-day recusal to rest, Justice Neil Gorsuch remained quiet Monday as an attorney who championed for his confirmation addressed the bench.

As Gorsuch first emerged from behind the court's maroon velvet curtains with his colleagues, he seemed to pause for a moment to take in the scene.

Gorsuch laughed and flashed a quick smile as Justice Sonia Sotomayor, sitting beside him on the far-right side of the bench, whispered something in his ear.

In the second case, which centered on whether someone intervening in a lawsuit must have standing, the two exchanged several glances and grins.

The third case on Monday is a dispute over whether certain securities class-action lawsuits can be barred because they were filed too late. The former acting solicitor general under Obama testified on behalf of Gorsuch during his confirmation hearings last month.

Gorsuch showcased his brand of textualism from the first question he asked. As a federal Judge, Gorsuch was sympathetic to claims of religious discrimination.

Dvoretzky said it depends on what relief the original plaintiff was seeking.

"I think I am maybe emphatically agreeing with you and.", Landau said.

The case itself isn't the problem for Justice Gorsuch. Trump was able to fill Scalia's vacancy only because Senate Republicans a year ago refused to consider Democratic former President Barack Obama's nominee Merrick Garland.

Gorsuch formally joined the court on 10 April after being confirmed three days earlier by the Republican-led Senate over broad Democratic opposition. Gorsuch restored the conservative majority on the court.

Despite Justice Gorsuch's respectable record, brilliant legal mind, and reputation as a moderate whose decisions are guided by the law rather than partisanship, Democrats had chose to filibuster his nomination.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said the case was "unbelievably complicated" and drew laughter from the courtroom spectators when he speculated that the person who wrote the law must be "somebody who takes pleasure out of pulling the wings off flies".

  • Salvatore Jensen