Justices Didn’t Oppose Gorsuch

Q: Did all eight Supreme Court justices write a letter opposing Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to fill a court vacancy?

A: No. That false claim was made on a liberal website that misrepresented a court ruling regarding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

FULL QUESTION

Did John Roberts write a letter stating that all eight members of the Supreme Court object to Gorsuch being on the court?

FULL ANSWER

President Donald Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, who died Feb. 13, 2016. That much is true.

But the Supreme Court justices have not “turned their backs on Trump, rejecting his nominee to fill Antonin Scalia’s empty seat.” That false claim was reported by the liberal BipartisanReport.com in a March 26 article with the misleading headline: “Just In: All 8 Supreme Court Justices Stand in Solidarity Against Trump SCOTUS Pick.”

The article, which since has been removed from the website, claimed that “all eight of the current justices agree that President Trump is completely wrong in choosing Neil Gorsuch to fill the ninth seat on the Supreme Court bench.” It also claimed Chief Justice John Roberts wrote a letter from the Supreme Court that “cited a 2008 ruling by Gorsuch as [the] reason.”

There was no such letter.

Instead, the article quoted from the Supreme Court’s unanimous opinion in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, a case that centered on the federal requirement that states provide “free appropriate public education” to disabled students under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

On March 22, the Supreme Court ruled, 8-0, that the parents of a child with autism and attention deficit disorder had the right to sue their Colorado school district to seek reimbursement for the cost of sending their son to private school because a public school was unable to meet his needs.

Writing for a unified court, Roberts said: “When all is said and done, a student offered an educational program providing ‘merely more than de minimis’ progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all. For children with disabilities, receiving  instruction  that  aims  so  low  would  be  tantamount  to  “sitting  idly … awaiting  the  time  when  they were  old  enough  to  ‘drop  out.’ The IDEA demands more. It  requires an educational program reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.”

The decision overturned a ruling by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which, in siding with the Douglas County School District, had cited, among others, Gorsuch’s 2008 opinion in Thompson R2-J School v. Luke P., another case involving an autistic child who struggled to learn in a public school setting.

In the Thompson case, Gorsuch, who also sits on the 10th Circuit Court, wrote that “the assistance that IDEA mandates is limited in scope” and that “the educational benefit mandated by IDEA must merely be ‘more than de minimis,’ ” or the minimum. He concluded that “this standard has been met” by the school.

During a Senate confirmation hearing on the same day as the Supreme Court’s decision, Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin asked Gorsuch: “Why? Why in your earlier decision did you want to lower the bar so low to ‘merely more than de minimis’ as a standard for public education to meet this federal requirement under the law?”

In response, Gorsuch said, “I was wrong, senator. I was wrong because I was bound by circuit precedent. And I’m sorry.” He noted that in Urban v. Jefferson County School District in 1996, a different set of judges on the 10th Circuit used the “de minimis standard.”

So, the Supreme Court’s opinion contradicted an earlier one written by Gorsuch. That’s not the same as saying, “All eight of the current justices agree that President Trump is completely wrong in choosing Neil Gorsuch” to sit on the high court, as BipartisanReport.com wrote.

At least one justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was nominated to the Supreme Court by Democratic President Bill Clinton, said in February that Gorsuch “writes very well” and “is very easy to get along with,” according to an Associated Press report.

Readers should be skeptical of stories published on BipartisanReport.com, which has a history of publishing misleading headlines on false reports that misrepresent legitimate news sources.

After other websites pointed out its inaccuracies, BipartisanReport.com removed the Gorsuch story from its website.

Sources

McKinney, Pearson. “JUST IN: All 8 Supreme Court Justices Stand in Solidarity Against Trump SCOTUS Pick.” BipartisanReport.com. 26 Mar 2017.

Mikkelson, David. “All 8 Supreme Court Justices Stand in Solidarity Against Trump SCOTUS Pick?” Snopes.com. 27 Mar 2017.

AOL.com. “Fake news claims entire Supreme Court bench opposes Neil Gorsuch’s nomination.” 29 Mar 2017.

Aguilar, John. “U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Douglas County student disabilities case gets tangled up in Neil Gorsuch hearing.” Denver Post. 22 Mar 2017.

Kamenetz, Anya and Cory Turner. “The Supreme Court Rules in Favor of A Special Education Student.” NPR. 22 Mar 2017.

U.S. Department of Education. “Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.” Accessed 3 Apr 2017.

Kiely, Eugene. “Partisan Spin on Gorsuch Vote.” FactCheck.org. 31 Mar 2017.

Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District. Supreme Court of the United States (22 Mar  2017).

Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District. U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit (25 August 2015).

Thompson R2-J School v. Luke P. U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit (29 Aug 2008).

Garcia v. Board of Education of Albuquerque Public Schools. U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit (25 Mar 2008).

U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. “Judge Neil M. Gorsuch.” Accessed 3 Apr 2017.

Urban Urban v. Jefferson County School District. U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit (16 Jul 1996).

Supreme Court of the United States. “Biographies of Current Justices of the Supreme Court.”  Accessed 4 Apr 2017.

Hananel, Sam. “Justice Ginsburg praises media and the role of free press.” Associated Press. 23 Feb 2017.

Palma, Bethania. “Has the Process to Impeach Donald Trump Begun?” Snopes.com. 15 Feb 2017.

LaCapria, Kim. “Homeland Insecurity.” Snopes.com. 19 Dec 2016.

Palma, Bethania. “Putin on the Ritz.” Snopes.com. 31 Oct 2016.

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