WASHINGTON (AP/WCSC) - President Donald Trump selected a 49-year-old U.S. Circuit Court judge to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, one of the most consequential moves of his young administration and a decision with ramifications that could long outlast his time in office.
Neil Gorsuch was one of two finalists to fill the vacancy created by the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
Gorsuch, 49, serves on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. A conservative with a writer's flair and polished legal pedigree, Gorsuch would be the youngest Supreme Court nominee in a quarter-century. Gorsuch has served in that role for the past 10 years, he said, serving six western states.
"You have entrusted me with a most solemn assignment," Gorsuch said, turning to face Trump in the White House. "Standing here, in a house of history and acutely aware of my own imperfections, I pledge that if I am confirmed, I will do all my powers permit to be a faithful servant of the Constitutional laws of this great country."
Gorsuch called Scalia a "lion of the law."
"Agree or disagree with him, all of his colleagues on the bench cherished his wisdom and his humor, and like them, I miss him," Gorsuch said of Scalia.
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott shortly after Trump's announcement, saying he was happy with Trump's choice.
"With over a decade of experience on the Tenth Circuit, Gorsuch has the reputation of a consistent conservative and someone who will uphold the Constitution and defend our country's founding principles," Scott said in the statement. "His record shows that he fully supports religious liberty and protects freedom of speech. I believe that Judge Gorsuch will serve as a great successor to the late Justice Scalia, and I look forward to supporting his nomination over the coming months."
The other finalist was Thomas Hardiman, a 51-year-old with a conservative track record and working-class background, who serves alongside Trump's sister on the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The judges appeared on Trump's list of 21 possible choices that he made public during the campaign, and each has met with him to discuss the vacancy that arose when Scalia died nearly a year ago.
Both were appointed federal appeals court judges by President George W. Bush. Trump is also said to have considered a third judge, William Pryor, but Pryor's standing appeared to slip in recent days, in part because his reputation as a staunch conservative seemed likely to make him a rich target for Democratic senators in a confirmation hearing.