Neil Gorsuch First Day Cases Originalism Neal Katyal

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The U.S. Supreme Court is set this week to hear a closely watched case testing the limits of religious rights, and new Justice Neil Gorsuch's judicial record indicates he could tip the court toward siding with a church challenging Missouri's ban on state funding of religious entities.

Shortly after, he began asking the Justice Department lawyer Brian Fletcher about the Civil Service Reform Act, saying "Wouldn't it be a lot easier if we just followed the plain text of the statute?" Mitch McConnell, before the vote, smugly commented "the most consequential decision" he had ever made was deciding in February 2016 that the next president of the United States would appoint the person to fill Antonin Scalia's seat on the court.

Gorsuch waited only about seven minutes before he asked his first question, following four of his more senior colleagues. "What am I missing?" Justices often hear cases argued by their former law clerks or people from law firms where they once worked.

Gorsuch then said he was "sorry for taking up so much time", according to the AP account.

At an event in Colorado last summer, Kagan explained that the newest member is last to speak during the justices' private court conferences and has to take notes and answer the door throughout the proceeding, The Washington Post reported.

In that 2015 decision, Gorsuch was ruling on a case in which prosecutors were attempting to charge a defendant, Philbert Rentz, with two violations for allegedly firing a gun once.

"He remained focused ... as he asked a number of questions of counsel".

In response Gorsuch said, "Thank you for the warm welcome I have received".

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By many accounts, these cases can be described as dense and littered with minutia; however, that did not stop the justices, aside from the famously silent Clarence Thomas, from asking a litany of questions from both sides.

The Court was hearing arguments in a case involving a technical issue about the process for a federal worker to appeal his discrimination claim. Roberts said a few words to welcome his newest colleague to the court, telling Gorsuch that "we wish him a long and happy career in our common calling".

The flurry of arguments will offer Gorsuch a fast introduction to his new responsibilities and give the public its first glimpse at how he will conduct himself on the court.

Exactly what part, Gorsuch wanted to know, of the federal statute at issue provided for the path that Landau was advocating?

The week's biggest fight looked to be Wednesday's church-state dispute, though a last-minute change of position by Missouri may undercut the case.

Alito added; "The one thing about this case that seems perfectly clear to me is that nobody who is not a lawyer, and no ordinary lawyer, could read these statutes and figure out what they are supposed to do". Speaking for all, Justice Samuel Alito called the law in question "unbelievably complicated" and hard to parse.

The cases are expected to be decided before the end of June.

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