Judge Neil Gorsuch
Judge Neil Gorsuch (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)

The New York City Bar Association has rated Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s pick for the U.S. Supreme Court, as “qualified” for the position, citing his intellectual ability, motivation to build consensus and “unquestionable integrity and independence,” among other attributes.

But members expressed concerns with the “harsh tone” Gorsuch used in two dissents as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, as well as a 2005 article in which he criticized “liberals” for relying on litigation to achieve social justice goals.

“We believe that he will strive to achieve the right balance between judicial restraint, respect for precedent and legal clarity,” the city bar said.

But it also said some members took issue with Gorsuch’s dissents from the denial of en banc hearings for Green v. Haskell County Board of Commissioners, 574 F.3d 1235 (10th Cir. 2009) and American Atheists v. Davenport, 637 F.3d 1095 (10th Cir. 2010), which involved the display of religious images in public spaces.

Members said Gorsuch’s dissents called into question his ability to “impartially” decide cases and consider the interests of Americans whose backgrounds differ from his.

The city bar uses a three-tiered system to evaluate Supreme Court nominees: “highly qualified,” “qualified” and “not qualified.”

The “qualified” rating is given to nominees who possess the “legal ability, experience, knowledge of the law, intellectual and analytical skills, maturity of judgment, common sense, sensitivity, honesty, integrity, independence, and temperament.”

The city bar’s “highly qualified” rating—regarded as “the exception, not the norm” for SCOTUS candidates—is given to nominees who are likely to be “outstanding” justices on the court.

Both Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, nominated by President Barack Obama, were deemed highly qualified.