Monday, June 19, 2017

Western roots expected to inform Gorsuch’s perspective

Mateusz Perkowski

The Western roots of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch are encouraging to natural resource attorneys who hope his experience will inform environmental cases affecting agriculture. As a native of Colorado, Gorsuch has direct knowledge of the vast Western landscape and the natural resource economy that depends on it, said William Perry Pendley, president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation. Most of the eight justices on the nation’s highest court hail from states without massive federal land holdings, he said. Four are from New York, two are from California, one is from New Jersey and one is from Georgia. “We have today a bicoastal Supreme Court,” said Pendley. “They really don’t have an understanding of federal land issues... They do not teach these issues at Harvard and Yale.” If confirmed, Gorsuch is likely to review lawsuits over the Endangered Species Act, sage grouse regulations and federal power under the Clean Water Act, which are percolating in lower courts, said Karen Budd-Falen, a natural resources attorney who practices in the 10th Circuit. Gorsuch appears skeptical about the extent of the federal government’s authority and the obligation of the courts to defer to the executive branch’s legal interpretations, said Jim Burling, director of litigation for the Pacific Legal Foundation property rights nonprofit. In one recent opinion, for example, Gorsuch wrote critically of the ability of “executive bureaucracies to swallow huge amounts of core judicial and legislative power and concentrate federal power in a way that seems more than a little difficult to square with the Constitution of the framers’ design.”...more

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