Judge Gorsuch: Wall Street and Big Business’ Best Friend

In the Hobby Lobby case, Gorsuch ruled that private corporations are people — and that they enjoy the same constitutional protections as actual human beings. Gorsuch argued that it should be harder for regular people to band together in order to hold Wall Street and huge corporations accountable for fraud and other wrongdoing. His views on money in politics suggest that he may be willing to overturn the remaining restrictions on unlimited campaign spending by big money donors and special interests.

Putting Employers, Not People First:

In Gorsuch’s past cases involving employment and labor disputes due to discrimination, he ruled in favor of employers two-thirds of the time, including in:

  • Johnson v. Oklahoma Department of Transportation: Gorsuch ruled against an African-American man who claimed he was fired from his position at the Oklahoma Department of Transportation because of racial discrimination.
  • Poindexter vs. Board of County Commissioners of the County of Sequoyah: Gorsuch and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against a county foreman who was demoted as retribution from his political opponents.
  • Strickland v. UPS: Gorsuch wrote a dissent in a ruling supporting the right of a female UPS driver to have her day in court to prove she was a victim of sex discrimination. The driver’s male colleagues testified that she was treated differently and she was required to attend counseling sessions and individual meetings regarding her performance, despite outperforming her male colleagues. Gorsuch, however, argued that there was no evidence of improper treatment.

Employer > Worker:

In many cases, Gorsuch sided against individuals who sued their employers due to unfair treatment, denial of benefits or workplace accidents that resulted in death:

  • In Fry v. American Home Assurance Company, Gorsuch ruled against a woman who sued her husband’s insurance provider after he was killed operating an oil well.
  • In Hwang v. Kansas State University, Gorsuch ruled in favor of a university that refused to extend an employee’s paid leave benefits after she was diagnosed with cancer.
  • In Compass Environmental, Inc. v. OSHRC, Gorsuch “voted to overturn a Department of Labor fine against a company whose failure to train a worker caused his death.”
  • On decisions related to Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) claims, Gorsuch “usually sided with employers and plan administrators…on claims that seek to recover denied or terminated benefits.” In past rulings Gorsuch has sided with, among others, Liberty Life Assurance Co. of Boston, Sun Life Assurance Co. of Canada, and Prudential Insurance Co. of America.
  • When a truck driver left his trailer on the side of the road after suffering from numbness in freezing temperatures, in TransAm Trucking v. Administrative Review Board, U.S. Department of Labor, Gorsuch “chastised his fellow judges for siding” with the driver.  

Against Ordinary Americans Holding Corporations Accountable:

  • In a 2005 working paper for the Washington Legal Foundation, Gorsuch advocated for the legislature and courts to make it more difficult for people to sue large corporations for fraud as part of class action suits. Gorsuch complained “the amount of damages demanded in securities class actions is frequently so great…” that it puts too big of a burden on corporations.
  • In an article for Legal Affairs (No Loss, No Gain), Gorsuch attacked plaintiffs’ lawyers who were trying to hold corporations accountable through class action lawsuits. Gorsuch accused them of using their cases for “free ride[s] to fast riches” and wrote that these cases cost “businesses billions of dollars in settlements every year.”

A Threat to Limits on Big Money in Politics:

  • In Riddle v. Hickenlooper, Gorsuch struck down a Colorado law limiting donations for unaffiliated political candidates as unconstitutional. Instead of simply joining the majority opinion in this case, Judge Gorsuch wrote a separate concurring opinion suggesting that, according to the Campaign legal Center, campaign contributions “ought to be afforded the highest form of constitutional protection, which is known as ‘strict scrutiny review.’” As the Campaign Legal Center warns, “If the [Supreme Court] were to follow Judge Gorsuch’s reasoning and apply strict scrutiny to laws governing contributions to candidates, many remaining protections against big money in politics might similarly fall.”