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Justice Gorsuch's Dilemma
When President Donald J. Trump appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) and Justice Gorsuch was being confirmed for the position on the bench, he was very vocal about his stance against euthanasia and assisted suicide. A group of lawmakers on Capitol Hill sniped at him for holding those views and possibly imposing them upon others in his judicial capacity.
Where it gets interesting is the fact that Justice Gorsuch is also a proponent of capital punishment. I am not going to tell you what my stance is on either capital punishment or euthanasia and assisted suicide because it would not serve the purpose of this article. However, I am going to show you herein a situation in which Justice Gorsuch's stances on capital punishment, euthanasia and assisted suicide could cause him a major dilemma if an unusual case involving those issues were ever presented to him on the floor of the SCOTUS.
Nevertheless, there can be no question that Justice Gorsuch has a wealth of legal knowledge; and many Americans would agree that so long as he complies with existing law in making his rulings, despite even when he doesn't agree with something on the books, he would definitely do well in his tenure on the bench of the SCOTUS. It brings to mind when President John F. Kennedy promised, back in the early 1960s after he first took office, that he was not going to allow his religious beliefs as a devout Catholic to interfere with his objectivity in making important decisions as our president or prevent him from making decisions in the best interest of Americans of every faith.
Skeptics, of course, are going to argue that if Chief Justice John Roberts has been caught allowing his emotions to get the best of him in making critical decisions that could affect our nation's future, then Justice Gorsuch would be no more immune to that same situation than Roberts would be.
Justice Gorsuch Has Written That He Opposes Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia
Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to read Justice Gorsuch's book titled The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, but I have watched news reports about it; and after doing so, it becomes no secret that he could never become a fan of the late Dr. Jack Kevorkian. The major reason that Justice Gorsuch holds this same stance is because of his conservative religious convictions.
At his confirmation hearing three to four years ago, after Senator Dianne Feinstein questioned Justice Gorsuch about his stance regarding euthanasia and assisted suicide, he told her that he was not completely mindless of the fact that there were terminally ill patients who were suffering in excruciating pain, and that his father was one of them. His critics still snipe that he himself has never walked in his father's shoes.
Whenever any issue regarding human life confronts appointed and elected officials, or the American public at large, there is going to be a great amount of discord. Otherwise, Roe v. Wade would never have happened, and Americans would not currently be as divided as they are.
Take the example of L. Lin Wood. He is a highly educated man, and he has done many good things with his legal career. However, he has admitted that in accordance with his religious beliefs, he holds the opinion that suicide is a one-way ticket to the proverbial lake of fire. There are still people in our nation and throughout the world who share his opinion in that regard, although I am not one of them.
It's possible that Belgium has the most assisted suicides of any nation in the world, because they are legal there. Well, if the devil actually does exist, I seriously doubt that he is hanging out in Belgium to snatch up the souls of suicide victims, despite what some Christian fundamentalists may believe. In any event, there can be no question that any issue having to do with human life is a sensitive one and often ignites fierce arguments among people who have diametrically opposing opinions.
Justice Gorsuch has voiced his strong opinion that he does not want our nation to become like Belgium regarding laws that address suicide and euthanasia. I seriously doubt that our nation will ever become that way, but it is interesting to hear and read about all the pros and cons of this issue.
Justice Neil Gorsuch Is a Strong Proponent of Capital Punishment
Justice Gorsuch has always been very open about the fact that he supports capital punishment. The video below describes his stance on this issue.
I realize that many have strong opinions regarding capital punishment, and I am not going to sway anyone's stance on it. That is not the purpose of this article.
Some of you may be old enough to have watched all the news stories about the trial of Charles Manson, and I will not deny that the atrocities that this man committed may have molded your viewpoint about capital punishment. On the other hand, the Pope of Rome denounced capital punishment as being wrong, and many Catholics decided to mirror his perspective on it. There is really no easy answer to this issue, because there are going to be arguments surrounding the 8th Amendment to the United States Constitution and whether or not capital punishment is in violation of it.
An interesting person whose name surfaces from time to time in the news and in documentaries is Gary Gilmore. What made his case unique and unusual was that his lawyers wanted to appeal his conviction and keep him from being executed, and he fired his lawyers and agreed with the judge and the jury that sentenced him to death to pay for his crime with his life. If I remember the 1982 movie titled The Executioner's Song correctly, where his situation got really messy was when opponents of his sentence viewed his desire to be executed as a state-assisted suicide. I have to wonder how Justice Gorsuch would handle such a case if it were ever before him on the floor of the SCOTUS.
Whether or not you were alive back in 1976 and 1977, the true story of the late Gary Gilmore is something that will never be forgotten in the history of our nation's court system and criminal justice system. You can watch a video about it below.
Despite the fact that Gilmore wanted nobody to interfere with his death sentence, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) both zeroed in on the matter and attempted to stop his execution on behalf of many death row inmates. It has been a while since I watched The Executioner's Song, but I vaguely remember that one of the arguments made by these special interest groups was that the state of Utah had no right to carry out what they viewed to be an assisted suicide.
These same special interest groups apparently did not have any difficulty building their arguments that Gilmore's execution constituted a state-assisted suicide, because he had attempted to take his own life sometime before he had been arrested for the two murders in 1976 that led to this death sentence, and he had also attempted to do so after he was convicted of the two capital offenses. I am not sure whether suicide was illegal in the state of Utah at the time, because I am not a lawyer. However, I can see where both of these special-interest groups could get a large number of people riled up over this matter.
Now, I realize that Justice Gorsuch was born in 1967. Therefore, he would have been only 9 or 10 years old when all of these events regarding Gary Gilmore were going on. However, it's safe to say that if an identical case to Gilmore's were to be presented on the floor of the SCOTUS and Justice Gorsuch had to make a decision about it, he would definitely find himself confronted with the dilemma of deciding whether he should rule to defend a death sentence or rule to stop what could be argued is a state-assisted suicide.
If the case of a defendant identical to Gilmore were presented to Justice Gorsuch in which the defendant receives a death sentence and did not want to appeal it because of his desire to die, it is difficult to say how Justice Gorsuch would rule on this matter. Whatever decision that Justice Gorsuch would make would tell the world which issue was more important to him – capital punishment or the prevention of assisted suicide and euthanasia.
Perhaps his reaction wouldn't be unlike the television sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter whenever a trying situation would materialize and John Travolta (in his role as Vinnie Barbarino) would say in a high-pitched voice, "I'm so confused." On a more serious note, Justice Gorsuch would find himself in one of the biggest dilemmas he has ever faced in his entire legal career.
Now, if Justice Gorsuch merely adhered to existing law, then perhaps he would have no problem going against his own principles and ruling one way or another. Then again, I'm sure that he would get backlash from the mainstream media in all shapes and forms for having deviated from his belief system. Perhaps because the life of a hardened criminal would not be as important to him as the life of someone decent like his father, he would have no problem in ruling that the defendant be allowed to die by execution. Then again, he might rule against the execution, because he might think that the defendant was trying to take the easy way out of facing lengthy prison time. It would definitely be a memorable moment in his tenure on the bench of the SCOTUS.
Because I am not a mind reader, I probably will never know until a similar matter comes before Justice Gorsuch on the floor of the SCOTUS. I would only hope that Justice Gorsuch would treat every such matter on a case-by-case basis.
Choosing Between Principles
When someone is appointed to the bench of the SCOTUS who takes an adamant stance on a controversial issue, Americans are going to have questions, and they will want some answers. Justice Gorsuch is an interesting person in his current capacity, because he supports capital punishment and, at the same time, he opposes euthanasia and any kind of assisted suicide. It would be interesting to find out whether he would be more dead set on allowing a defendant similar to Gary Gilmore to be executed or if he would rule to stop the execution because of what could be argued as being a state-assisted suicide in the form of this defendant's misuse of capital punishment to fulfill his wish to end his life.
My response to such a dilemma is that, sooner or later, probably each and every Supreme Court justice ends up confronting a situation in which they have to choose between one principle or another. It would be interesting to know what Justice Gorsuch would do if he were ever put in this position, especially when both principles appear to be of equal importance to him. Only time will tell us what exactly would happen in that event.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2021 Jason B Truth