By Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In less than three months, President Donald Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Neil Gorsuch, is already staking out ground on the court’s right, adding his voice to the biggest controversies including Trump’s travel ban targeted at six Muslim-majority countries, gun control, religious rights and gay rights.
In a flurry of activity at the court on Monday, Gorsuch showed his inclination to rule from a spot occupied by fellow conservative Justice Clarence Thomas. At a minimum, he is so far living up to Trump’s claim that he would be a conservative in the mold of the man he replaced, Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last year.
Thomas, appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1991, is seen by legal experts as the most conservative of the nine justices and is known for his idiosyncratic views of some legal issues. The court has a 5-4 conservative majority. Two of the conservative majority, Anthony Kennedy, and to a lesser extent Chief Justice John Roberts, sometimes side with the liberals.
Liberal groups and Democratic senators had vociferously opposed Gorsuch’s appointment, with the evidence so far suggesting their depiction of him as a dogged conservative was largely correct.
“Justice Gorsuch has shown himself to be the conservative ideologue many predicted he would be and not the moderating check on the executive branch as others suggested he would be,” said Michele Jawando, a lawyer with the liberal Center for American Progress.
Conservatives, meanwhile, are delighted. Their hope that Gorsuch, 49, would be a solid vote on the right, would appear to be well founded.
“Gorsuch is rapidly becoming my favorite justice,” said Ilya Shapiro, a lawyer with the libertarian Cato Institute.
The new justice, formerly an appeals court judge in Colorado, was sworn in on April 10 after Democrats made a concerted effort to block his confirmation by the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate.
Gorsuch has not been shy to…