The decisions handed down and enforced by the court system affect nearly every aspect of our lives.
However, difference in opinion is stirring things up within the system.
Just a couple days ago, tension between Kamala Harris, the newly-minted Democratic Senator from California, and Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch began to rise.
The former California Attorney General even went so far as to write a full op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle, citing workers’ rights cases heard by Gorsuch:
Take the case of Alphonse Maddin, a trucker who got stuck on the road in sub-zero temperatures and abandoned his cargo to seek help. Because he left his truck, his employer fired him. Maddin sued and seven judges ruled in his favor. Only one — Judge Gorsuch — sided with the company. Luckily, Maddin won his case. But had Gorsuch prevailed, it would have been easier for some employers to fire employees without consequence. Imagine that — being fired for trying to save your life.
Gorsuch wrote in his dissent in the Maddin case:
A trucker was stranded on the side of the road, late at night, in cold weather, and his trailer brakes were stuck, and [TransAm] fired him for disobeying orders and abandoning its trailer and goods.
It might be fair to ask whether TransAm’s decision was a wise or kind one. But it’s not our job to answer questions like that. Our only task is to decide whether the decision was an illegal one.
In another case, a college professor named Grace Hwang was diagnosed with cancer. The university provided her a leave of absence to get treatment, but refused to extend that leave even though her doctor said she needed more time to get well. Judge Gorsuch called the university’s decision “reasonable” and rejected her lawsuit. Grace died last summer and her family recently wrote, “His decision was heartless. It removed the human element from the equation. It did not bring justice.”
Gorsuch defended himself during four days of confirmation hearings, explaining to Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) that sometimes that means being “for the big guy,” and sometimes it means being for “the little guy”:
“I’d like to convey to you — from the bottom of my heart — is that I am a fair judge.
I have participated in 2,700 opinions over 10 and a half years. And, if you want cases where I’ve ruled for the little guy as well as the big guy, there are plenty of them.”
Interestingly enough, it was Judge Gorsuch’s insistence on only applying the law that led Harris to her final decision:
Judge Gorsuch has consistently valued legalisms over real lives. I won't support his nomination. https://t.co/7SLAOI6MXx
— Kamala Harris (@SenKamalaHarris) March 24, 2017
That seemed to TICK a lot of people off. As a judge, it is your job to unhold the law:
@SenKamalaHarris You mean he respects the actual law and doesn't insert his personal interpretations or opinions? It's like he's a real judge or something!
— Chelsey (@Chelsie_Elsie) March 24, 2017
@SenKamalaHarris I'm guessing you never really understood why "Lady Justice" is blindfolded?
— Josh Walrath (@JoshDWalrath) March 24, 2017
@SenKamalaHarris If 'real life' trumps 'legalisms' why do you take an oath to defend the Constitution?
— Mason City Limits (@Heyclammy) March 24, 2017
@SenKamalaHarris That's his job. Yours is to make the law. If you can't figure out the difference, resign.
— Louisiana Taxpayer (@jbnv) March 24, 2017
Perhaps they are right…if you can’t do your job, you should probably go.