Legal blogger notes odd alliance between Justices Jackson and Gorsuch

 May 30, 2023

Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson made history last year by becoming the first African American woman ever confirmed to America's highest judicial body.

While the justice's liberal leanings are no secret, an observer recently noted how she has developed a surprising connection with one of her conservative colleagues. 

Jackson and Gorsuch make for legal odd couple

In an article published on Monday, MSNBC legal blogger Jordan Rubin acknowledged that Jackson and Justice Neil Gorsuch seem "like an unusual pairing."

Gorsuch, who was nominated in 2017 by former President Donald Trump, voted to overturn Roe v. Wade and agreed in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen that the Constitution confers substantial protection to gun rights.

However, Rubin argued that an alliance between Jackson and Gorsuch "actually makes sense upon closer inspection, at least in the narrow sliver of cases where they’ve found common ground."

As an example of that, he pointed to last week's decision in Tyler v. Hennepin County. The case centered on a Minnesota county that "seized an elderly woman’s home over unpaid taxes, sold it, and kept profits that exceeded her tax debt."

Both justices skeptical about use of government power

Although the Court issued a unanimous opinion siding with the elderly woman, Rubin noted how "Gorsuch and Democratic appointee Jackson joined forces" in a concurring opinion.

The other seven justices were primarily concerned with Fifth Amendment’s "takings" clause, a provision under which government actors may not seize private property for public use absent just compensation.

Yet Jackson and Gorsuch also brought up the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on excessive fines, stressing that "the Constitution also protects people against excessive government intrusion in these types of cases."

"So what is it about the appointees of President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump that led them — and them alone — to reach an agreement here?" Rubin asked.

Relationship is "worth paying attention to"

After "some educated speculation," he suggested that the answer lies in "Jackson’s rare experience as a former public defender, combined with what might be called Gorsuch’s libertarianism."

Nor is this the first time that Jackson and Gorsuch have teamed up, as Rubin stressed that the two were on the same side in Bittner v. United States, a case concerning banking regulations.

What's more, they were united again earlier this month in Polselli v. Internal Revenue Service, with both agreeing that the IRS' power needs to be limited.

Rubin concluded by saying that it's "worth paying attention to how this judicial relationship develops between two justices who could serve together for decades to come."

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