Justice

President Trump's Supreme Court Nominee Has Some Controversial Opinions on Kids and Criminal Justice

February 1st 2017

By:
Danielle DeCourcey

President Donald Trump announced Tuesday that federal Judge Neil Gorsuch would be his choice to fill deceased Justice Antonin Scalia's seat on the Supreme Court. By Wednesday the backlash had begun. 

Gorsuch, a conservative justice on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, still has to be confirmed by the Senate, where he'll likely be pressed for his stance on criminal justice issues. On Twitter, many are unimpressed.

Why are people talking about Gorsuch and police brutality?

There are two controversial excessive force cases in Gorsuch's record that Igor Volsky, deputy director at the liberal Center for American Progress, pointed to on Twitter.

In 2013, Gorsuch ruled that a police officer who killed a man with a stun gun did not use excessive force. Ryan Wilson, who was 22 years old when he died, was confronted by an officer over marijuana in 2006 and ran away. Police said there was a physical confrontation and an officer used a stun gun on Wilson's head, killing him, according to The Denver Post.

Marijuana is now legal in Colorado.

police car

Wilson's parents sued the officer for excessive force. The case eventually reached a three-judge panel in appeals court that included Gorsuch. The court sided with the officer.

“We sympathize with the Wilsons over their terrible loss. But the Supreme Court has directed the lower federal courts to apply qualified immunity broadly to protect …. all officers except ‘the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law,'” Gorsuch wrote in 2013. 

A policewoman.

The Denver Post reported that another judge on the panel wrote the officer should be protected from the lawsuit, but that a "reasonable officer" would not have hit Wilson in the head with the stun gun. 

“A reasonable officer would know that aiming or recklessly tasing Ryan Wilson in the head under the circumstances presented was unconstitutional,” Chief Judge Mary Beck Briscoe  wrote. 

In 2014, Gorsuch was on another panel that ruled a Utah school resource officer's "twist-lock" of a 9-year-old student — a type of restraint maneuver that locks a persons arms behind their back — was not excessive force. The student had stolen an iPad and the officer used the move when handcuffing the child, who reportedly weighed 67 pounds

Yellow schoolbus

Gorsuch and Judge Terrence O'Brien wrote that it is "regrettable" when a police officer "feels a need to resort to physical force," but that the child was poorly behaved. 

"Equally regrettable is the disrespectful, obdurate, and combative behavior of that nine-year-old child," the judges wrote. 

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