What happens in Washington, D.C. can seem far away and disconnected from our lives here in Iowa. But as Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley holds hearings on President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, a thorough and detailed examination of the nominee’s record is needed in order to address his prior rulings that have shown him to be completely out of touch with the values of hardworking Iowa families.
Judge Gorsuch has proved throughout his career, and especially since becoming a federal judge, that he will side with corporations over working people every chance he gets. He once sided with a company that fired a truck driver whose brakes had frozen in subzero temperatures. The truck driver had waited for hours in freezing conditions with no heat until his torso became numb, he could not feel his feet, and he was having trouble breathing. He unhitched the trailer and drove the truck to a nearby gas station, as any one of us would have done. But Judge Gorsuch sided with the company that fired him, costing this man the ability to provide for his family because he feared for his life.
Nurses take pride in our jobs — caring for people who need our help. Like so many other people in Iowa and nationwide, we all work hard and are just trying to hang on to a good job. And when injustices occur, I expect the courts to call that out and right the wrongs; it’s a fundamental part of our values. But Judge Gorsuch has turned his back on working people like me when they have looked to the courts for justice. Just ask the aforementioned truck driver. Or, in a case deeply upsetting to me as a person who cares for the sick and injured, the family of the person who was not trained for his job properly and died as a result. Judge Gorsuch said he would have overturned a Department of Labor fine against the employer whose negligence caused his death.
In addition to his numerous rulings against working people, Judge Gorsuch has shown that his values are miles apart from everyday Iowans when comes to such issues as police brutality and the rights of disabled students. When a police officer used a stun gun and killed a young man, Judge Gorsuch said it wasn’t excessive force even though the fleeing man hadn’t committed a violent crime, hadn’t hurt anyone, and would likely have been caught anyway. In another case, Judge Gorsuch said that a student with autism did not have a right under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to an education that would provide a chance to achieve intellectual and social skills outside the classroom.
Regardless of what political party you belong to or who you voted for last November, most Iowans respect the need for an independent judiciary that can serve as a check on the executive branch when needed. Gorsuch was among a group of hand-picked candidates provided by the ultra-right-wing Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation, groups that are bankrolled by the billionaire Koch Brothers. President Donald Trump had not only promised to pick his Supreme Court judges from Federalist Society-approved candidates, but also publicly said the Heritage Foundation would help him put together his list.
These are the same out-of-state special interests that were behind the recent legislation in Iowa that silences the voices of nurses, teachers and firefighters across our state. This disastrous law will harm patients, students and the general public — and was certainly not what Iowa’s citizens expected to be a top priority of our legislators when we voted last November. The selection of Judge Gorsuch by groups like these is a clear indication that wealthy special interests are gunning to bring similar laws to the entire country.
This is not how we do things in Iowa. We need a Supreme Court that will allow us to protect and strengthen what we’ve built, not weaken our voice. It’s more important than ever to have a Supreme Court that will act in the best interest of the country. That means putting working people before politics, not weakening our voices and not simply being another pawn in the partisan politics game that has so often plagued our government in recent years.
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I urge Senators Grassley and Joni Ernst to ensure Iowans are allowed to see the full and detailed record of Judge Gorsuch. Iowans, and our sisters and brothers across the country, deserve to know the truth about any lifetime Supreme Court appointee who is supposed to be part of the system of checks and balances that our country so desperately needs right now.
• Cathy Glasson is a registered nurse and president of SEIU Local 199.