President Donald Trump on Tuesday named Neil Gorsuch to fill the US Supreme Court spot that's been vacant for nearly a year since the sudden death of Chief Justice Antonin Scalia.
Gorsuch, 49, currently serves on the US Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Colorado. He graduated high school from Georgetown Prep, and his mother was head of the Environmental Protection Agency during the Reagan administration. The Washington Post describes him as a "reliable conservative with a reputation for clear and lucid writing."
"When Justice Scalia passed away I made a promise to the American people, I would find the very best judge in the country for the Supreme Court," Trump said as more than 211,000 followers watched the live stream. He described Gorsuch as someone who "respects our laws, loves our laws and would interpret our laws as written."
Unlike in the past, when presidents have announced their picks as part of a news conference on the White House grounds or in a press statement, Trump made his announcement on Facebook Live.
Since Scalia's death, the Supreme Court has been split down the middle between justices nominated by Republican presidents and those nominated by Democrats. That means Trump's pick could dramatically affect court decisions, including issues that are important to the tech industry. Such issues range from controlling patent trolls to alerting people when police rummage through online customer files.
Consider patent trolls, which buy up patents with the sole purpose of squeezing payments out of deep-pocketed companies. More than a third of all patent cases are heard in the Eastern District of Texas, infamous for granting substantial patent awards against large technology companies. (Apple and Dell, for example, have each paid hundreds of millions in questionable patent fees.)
This term the Supreme Court is expected to hear a case pitting food companies TC Heartland v. Kraft. The court's decision could drop the hammer on jurisdiction shopping, making it harder for trolls to pick trial venues that almost always rule in their favor.
The tech industry is also keenly interested in how the Supreme Court could rule on the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from illegal search and seizure of property. That's taken on new complications with our increasing use of digital communications. Today, companies like Google and Microsoft are forbidden to tell you when the police have a search warrant for your cloud-stored files. Microsoft is suing the Department of Justice in federal court in Seattle, arguing it should be able to intervene for customers who don't even know their files are being searched.
Dozens of tech companies, including Apple, Amazon and Google, claim such "abuse" undermines faith in US cloud providers' abilities to protect users' data and privacy, said Matt Larson, a litigation analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence.
Tuesday's announcement became somewhat of a reality show after Trump tweeted on Monday that he'd made his pick but was going to wait a day to reveal his choice.
The Senate didn't wait long to tease its response, with prominent Democrats planning to oppose Trump's pick. Supreme Court justices are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
Update, 5:10 p.m. PT: Adds name of Supreme Court nominee.
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