WASHINGTON (AP) — To see where Justice Neil Gorsuch might fit on the Supreme Court, watch the company he keeps.
Gorsuch has already paired up four times with Justice Clarence Thomas — the court’s most conservative member — in separate opinions that dissent from or take issue with the court’s majority rulings.
While the sample size is small, the results show Gorsuch’s commitment to follow the strict text of the law and a willingness to join Thomas in pushing the envelope further than the court’s other conservatives.
Gorsuch was picked by President Donald Trump to be a reliable conservative in the mold of the late Antonin Scalia. But the question after his confirmation hearings was how far to the right he would be.
The early trend of Gorsuch and Thomas acting together has pleased those who hoped Gorsuch would continue Scalia’s legacy and be another intellectual beacon for conservatives.
Ilya Shapiro, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, tweeted Friday: “So far, his voting alignment closest to Thomas -excellent!”
The latest instance came Friday when Gorsuch issued his first written dissent in a minor case about a federal employee challenging his dismissal from the U.S. Census Bureau. The dispute was over where Anthony Perry could appeal a case that alleges violations of both federal civil service rules and laws prohibiting discrimination.
The court sided with Perry, ruling 7-2 that he could file his lawsuit in a federal district court instead of first waiting for a federal appeals court to consider part of his case. In dissent, Gorsuch faulted the majority for failing to apply the law as written.
“Anthony Perry asks us to tweak a congressional statute — just a little — so that it might (he says) work a bit more efficiently,” Gorsuch said, joined by Thomas. “No doubt his invitation is well meaning. But it’s one we should decline all the same.”
Later, he added: “If a statute needs repair, there’s a constitutionally prescribed way to do it,” Gorsuch…