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Excerpts from opinions written by Judge Neil Gorsuch

March 8, 2017 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) — Excerpts from opinions written by Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, a judge on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver:


Addressing a long-running boundary dispute involving the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservations in Utah, August 2016:.

“We’re beginning to think we have an inkling of Sisyphus’s fate. Courts of law exist to resolve disputes so that both sides might move on with their lives. Yet here we are, forty years in, issuing our seventh opinion in the Ute line and still addressing the same arguments we have addressed so many times before.”


Ruling against a federal prison inmate in Colorado, Jerry Lee Bustos, who sued A&E Television Networks for defamation, July 2011:

“Can you win damages in a defamation suit for being called a member of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang on cable television when, as it happens, you have merely conspired with the Brotherhood in a criminal enterprise? The answer is no. While the statement may cause you a world of trouble, while it may not be precisely true, it is substantially true. And that is enough to call an end to this litigation as a matter of law.”


Dissenting from a ruling ordering a trucking company to rehire a fired driver, August 2016:

“A trucker was stranded on the side of the road, late at night, in cold weather, and his trailer brakes were stuck. He called his company for help and someone there gave him two options. He could drag the trailer carrying the company’s goods to its destination (an illegal and maybe sarcastically offered option). Or he could sit and wait for help to arrive (a legal if unpleasant option). The trucker chose None of the Above, deciding instead to unhook the trailer and drive his truck to a gas station. In response, his employer, TransAm, fired him for disobeying orders and abandoning its trailer and goods.”


Returning to a lower court a dispute between two insurance companies over a worker injured on the job, May 2012:

“Haunted houses may be full of ghosts, goblins, and guillotines, but it’s their more prosaic features that pose the real danger. Tyler Hodges found that out when an evening shift working the ticket booth ended with him plummeting down an elevator shaft. But as these things go, this case no longer involves Mr. Hodges. Years ago he recovered from his injuries, received a settlement, and moved on. This lingering specter of a lawsuit concerns only two insurance companies and who must foot the bill. And at the end of it all, we find, there is no escape for either of them.”


Disagreeing with colleagues, who dismissed a mother’s lawsuit claiming her son had been subjected to false arrest and excessive force stemming from incidents at an Albuquerque middle school, July 2016:

“If a seventh grader starts trading fake burps for laughs in gym class, what’s a teacher to do? Order extra laps? Detention? A trip to the principal’s office? Maybe. But then again, maybe that’s too old school. Maybe today you call a police officer. And maybe today the officer decides that, instead of just escorting the now compliant thirteen year old to the principal’s office, an arrest would be a better idea. So out come the handcuffs and off goes the child to juvenile detention. My colleagues suggest the law permits exactly this option and they offer ninety-four pages explaining why they think that’s so. Respectfully, I remain unpersuaded.”


Invoking the Dickens character Mr. Bumble from Oliver Twist, in the same case:

“Often enough the law can be ‘a ass - a idiot,’ ... and there is little we judges can do about it, for it is (or should be) emphatically our job to apply, not rewrite, the law enacted by the people’s representatives. Indeed, a judge who likes every result he reaches is very likely a bad judge, reaching for results he prefers rather than those the law compels. So it is I admire my colleagues today, for no doubt they reach a result they dislike but believe the law demands - and in that I see the best of our profession and much to admire. It’s only that, in this particular case, I don’t believe the law happens to be quite as much of a ass as they do.”