Neil Gorsuch’s belief in reading the law as narrowly as needed to screw ordinary people reared its head again during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing Wednesday, but not because of anything Gorsuch himself said on Wednesday. No, the issue was something the entire United States Supreme Court said—that Gorsuch was wrong in a 2008 opinion dealing with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Ian Millhiser writes:
Under Gorsuch’s opinion in Luke P., a school district complies with the law so long as they provide educational benefits that “must merely be ‘more than de minimis.’”
“De minimis” is a Latin phrase meaning “so minor as to merit disregard.” So Gorsuch essentially concluded that school districts comply with their obligation to disabled students so long as they provide those students with a little more than nothing.
All eight justices rejected Gorsuch’s approach. IDEA, Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “is markedly more demanding than the ‘merely more than de minimis’ test applied by the Tenth Circuit.” Indeed, Roberts added, Gorsuch’s approach would effectively strip many disabled students of their right to an education.
Sure, maybe if Antonin Scalia had been alive, the Supreme Court’s decision would have been 8-1, but Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas just said Gorsuch was wrong—and wrong because he would deny disabled kids an education.
Asked about this during his hearing Wednesday, Gorsuch stuck to his confirmation strategy of appearing as bland as possible and said, “That’s fine.”