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Is There a Ginsburg-Gorsuch Rivalry?

By George Khoury, Esq. on October 20, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Justice Neil Gorsuch likely won't ever reach Notorious RBG levels of fame unless he magically becomes seen as cool. However, the novice supreme jurist seems to be stepping up to the plate for repeated Gins-burns.

All joking aside, Supreme Court commentators have noticed that Justice Ginsberg has been rather quick to redirect rookie Justice Gorsuch's questions away from the originalist and textualist positions he appears to take. According to the New Yorker, after Justice Ginsburg did so at the Gil v. Whitford argument, a "woo" could be heard throughout the courtroom.

A Rivalry of One's Own Making

However, as noted by another commentator, that "woo" noticed by the author of the New Yorker piece may have just been the fanciful machinations of journalistic liberties.

Generally, reading into the questions that the judges ask to gather insights into their personal feelings about each other is misguided. Despite their polar opposite beliefs, Justice Ginsberg and the late Justice Scalia were actually friends and shared a famous love for opera.

Forget the Drama

Setting aside the SNL sketch comedy, and the manufactured drama between the most prestigious judges in the nation, when you examine the back and forth between Justices Ginsberg and Gorsuch, there's already a developing theme.

Justice Gorsuch is often (but not always) considered a strict originalist. For decades, the Supreme Court has consistently found the Constitution to be interpreted by modern rather than historical standards of meaning, essentially giving life to the concept of the document being a living, breathing document. Questions by Justice Gorsuch that have aroused Justice Ginsberg's retorts have called into question prior decisions of the High Court in that regard. The upshot is that Gorsuch is essentially seeking to limit the power of the Court.

While limiting the power of the Supreme Court may sound appealing to conservatives and staunch advocates of states' rights, there are certainly drawbacks to taking an originalist approach to interpreting the U.S. Constitution. This, of course, is the view we see illustrated in Ginsburg's retorts. But who knows, maybe Ginsburg and Goruch can find similar personal interests outside the Court? Gorsuch is not Scalia, but maybe he at least likes opera?

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