After a contentious confirmation process, on April 7, 2017, the Senate confirmed Tenth Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the Supreme Court seat that has been vacant since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016. On April 10, 2017, Gorsuch, a former clerk of current Justice Anthony Kennedy, was sworn in by Kennedy. Now that Gorsuch has taken his oath, he is ready to participate in the Supreme Court’s next round of oral arguments, which are set to begin on April 17.
When Gorsuch was initially nominated, we previously discussed the impact he could have on federal labor and employment laws if confirmed. Based on his judicial record, we suspect his opinions will generally be favorable for employers. This is notable, as the Court has come to a deadlock in numerous decisions following Scalia’s death. For example, in the March 2016 decision Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, the Court came to a 4-4 split vote on whether public-sector unions can require non-members to pay a fee to the unions. A new lawsuit on the issue was filed in February 2017. If the issue again reaches the Supreme Court, it is likely that Gorsuch will join the four conservative justices who voted against the union in Friedrichs. Gorsuch will undoubtedly be faced with a number of other employment issues during his tenure, including the enforceability issue of class of waivers. Employers should continue to monitor these developments.