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Gorsuch Preps for Nomination Hearings With 'Murder Boards,' Low-Key Campaign

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. | Last updated on

One week from today, Neil Gorsuch will be sitting before the Senate, facing a barrage of questions over his judicial record and how he may perform on the Supreme Court. But when Gorsuch's nomination hearings begin, he'll be prepared.

The Tenth Circuit judge and President Trump's nominee to fill the Court's long vacancy has been waging a stealth campaign in the background, according to CNN, meeting with senators and prepping for his upcoming grilling with a series of so-called "murder boards."

Murder, You Say?

No, there is no murder at a murder board, at least not literally. The term "murder board" is meant to invoke images of violence and destruction, but they involve very little bloodshed. They are simply a form of moot-court-esque prep sessions where participants take a particularly hostile approach.

The term is "Pentagonese," according to William Safire, and its original definition was something like "a group charged with the responsibility to slam a candidate or proposer of an idea up against the wall with tough questioning."

Gorsuch is being slammed up against a wall by some of his closest colleagues, according to CNN. Facing hard questions over his stance on civil rights, Russian jurisprudence, and administrative law is meant to help Gorsuch better withstand difficult questions on the Senate floor. Such prep is routine, and arguably essential. Robert Bork reportedly refused to prep with a murder board and, well, we know how that turned out.

Gorsuch Stays Out of the Headlines

Murder boards, by their name alone, seem aggressive, but much of Gorsuch's campaigning has been decidedly low key. The judge has quietly met with 70 senators since his nomination was announced six weeks ago. On Thursday, the ABA announced its rating of Gorsuch as "well-qualified," the highest rating available. Op-eds in support of his nomination have started showing up regularly; Neal Katyal writing in the New York Times, for example, and David C. Frederick in the Washington Post.

With the Trump administration facing opposition on so many other fronts, the Supreme Court battle has been relatively quiet. Some liberal groups have organized against Gorsuch, and conservative boosters have even ran TV ads in his favor, but Gorsuch's nomination hasn't generated even a fraction of the furor that surrounded Trump's executive order on immigration, for example, or the nomination of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education.

That's good news for Gorsuch. Prepped by his murder boards and facing little unified opposition, he's likely to make it through his Senate hearings alive.

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