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5 things you need to know about Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch

Gorsuch is young, conservative and an outdoorsman. And there's more.

Judge Neil Gorsuch, right, as President Donald Trump announces his nomination to tGetty Images

Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump'snominee for the Supreme Court, is a conservative judge who, if approved, will join the nation's top court at a critical moment for issues ranging from women's reproductive rights to immigrants to health care. Gorsuch was nominated to fill the seat left vacant when Justice Antonin Scalia died early last year.

Gorsuch's nomination requires Senate approval, and will likely get pushback from Democrats, who still think former President Barack Obama's nominee to fill the seat, Judge Merrick Garland, should have been considered. Republicans argued the power to name a replacement should be given to a new president

Here are the five most important facts to know about Gorsuch:

1. He's young.

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If approved, Gorsuch, 49, won't be the youngest judge nominated to the high court — that was Joseph Story, who was 32 years old at the time of his appointment in 1812 — but would join a bench where he would be the youngest member by 13 years.

Chief Justice John Roberts, currently the youngest on the bench, celebrated his 62nd birthday on Friday, but was nominated to the Supreme Courtwhen he was 50 by then-President George W. Bush.

Supreme Court justices can serve for life, though many have resigned or retired. If approved, Gorsuch will be in a similar position as Roberts, and could influence legal opinion through several decades.

2. He's conservative

Gorsuch has been known to side with religious liberty, and is widely considered to be a fifth vote to strike down Roe v. Wade if a case ever came to the Supreme Court.

In legal battles over the Affordable Care Act, Gorsuch sided with Hobby Lobby store and Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged in seeking religious exemptions for paying for contraceptives, as required by law. In the Hobby Lobby case, Gorsuch wrote that the government shouldn't force people with "sincerely held religious beliefs"into “conduct their religion teaches them to be gravely wrong" — a position upheld by the Supreme Court.

3. Gorsuch's legal views are close to Scalia's

In fact, he scores as high as 79percent on the "Scalia Index."

Researchers developed a model to predict which Supreme Court nominee would be most similar to Scalia, who died in February 2016. To determine one's "Scalia Index Score,"researchers considered several factors, including how often a judge promotes or practices originalism, how often a judge cites Scalia’s non-judicial writings in an opinion and how often a judge writes a separate opinion, something Scalia did a quarter of the time.

4. He's outdoorsman

In a recent New York Times article, a former colleague of Gorsuch's, Michael McConnell, espoused the importance of the nominee's love for the outdoors and his Western roots.

"There are so many cases that have to do with the West, and I also think the cultural sensibilities of the West are different. He’s an outdoorsman, and the Supreme Court needs a little bit more geographical diversity," McConnell told The Times.

According to The Times, the Colorado native lives in a mountain-view area among horses, and has raised chickens and goats with his daughters. His wife is an equestrian, and he is a skilled skier and fisherman.

And he has ties to the White House. Gorsuch's mother, Anne Gorsuch Burford, served as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under Ronald Reagan until her resignationin 1983 amid a scandal involving a $1.6 billion program to clean up hazardous waste dumps.

It's not clear how Gorsuch could affect Trump's executive orders to advance the Keystone XLand Dakota Access pipelines, though in 2015 he did uphold a clean energy law in Colorado, which environmentalists touted as a win.

5. He's Ivy League educated

In keeping with the Supreme Court pedigree, Gorsuch has degrees from Columbia, Harvard and Oxford. He and former President Barack Obama attended Harvard Law School together in the early 1990s, and received praise from fellow former classmate Norm Eisen.

If confirmed, Gorsuch will become the sixth justice (of nine) to have attended Harvard Law. (Of Harvard Law graduates, it is 5-4, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg transferred credits from Harvard to Columbia.) The remaining three graduated Yale Law School.

 
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