Neil Gorsuch (Justice) | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction

Neil Gorsuch is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, known for his textualist approach to interpreting the law and Constitution.

Early Life and Education

Neil Gorsuch was born on August 29, 1967, in Denver, Colorado. After finishing high school, he decided to leave the West for college. He attended Columbia University in New York City, graduating in 1988. But his thirst for knowledge didn’t stop there. Gorsuch then crossed the Atlantic to study at the University of Oxford as a Marshall Scholar. In 1991, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy. He returned to the U.S. to attend Harvard Law School, where he graduated in 1995.

Launching a Legal Career

Like many who aspire to become judges, Gorsuch started his career as a law clerk. He worked for two Supreme Court justices: Byron White and Anthony Kennedy. He then spent a decade in private practice. In 2006, President George W. Bush appointed him to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Supreme Court Justice

In 2017, President Donald Trump nominated Gorsuch to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. After Senate confirmation, he took his seat in April 2017.

Judicial Philosophy and Voting Record

Gorsuch is a conservative justice, often interpreting laws and the Constitution through a lens known as “textualism.” This approach focuses on the plain text of a law and tries to apply it as written without considering other factors like the lawmakers’ intentions or potential consequences.

He often sides with the conservative wing of the Court. For example, he has voted to uphold religious freedoms, even when they come into conflict with other rights, as seen in his vote in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.

On criminal justice, Gorsuch’s record is somewhat mixed. He’s been supportive of law enforcement in some cases, but also protective of certain defendants’ rights, particularly when he believes the government has overstepped its bounds.

In terms of social issues, Gorsuch has typically held conservative positions. He dissented in a landmark 2020 case where the court held that federal law protects LGBTQ+ individuals from workplace discrimination.

Personal Life

Gorsuch married Louise Burletson in 1996. They have two daughters, Emma and Belinda. Despite his high-profile role, Gorsuch tends to keep his personal life out of the public eye.


Neil Gorsuch’s journey from Denver to the Supreme Court of the United States tells a story of academic curiosity, professional dedication, and a deeply rooted commitment to a specific way of interpreting the law. His decisions and judicial philosophy continue to shape American law and society.

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Last Modified: 06/06/2023

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