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Justice Neil Gorsuch claims Supreme Court not split on party lines

Justice Gorsuch analysis

The conventional wisdom that the court is split along partisan lines based on the political views of the president that appointed each justice is false, a U.S. Supreme Court justice said. Justice Neil Gorsuch spoke about civility to an audience of about 1,000 at Brigham Young University on Friday, refuting the notion that judges are just "like politicians with robes."

Gorsuch is considered one of the Supreme Court's most conservative members, though he recently agreed with more liberal colleagues in a decision reaffirming a criminal defendant's right to a jury trial.

Gorsuch denied that justices' decisions are predictable, the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News reported.

"Rubbish," he said. Gorsuch noted he uses the original meaning of the Constitution to guide his judicial decisions, in contrast with judges who believe interpretations of the document should evolve over time.

"I worry that some living constitutionalists will take your rights away," he said. 

Gorsuch said he doesn't recognize the court reflected in media hinting at deep divisions among the nine jurists.

He told the audience at Brigham Young that the justices eat packed lunches together while Justice Stephen Breyer tests out knock-knock jokes that his grandchildren taught him. Gorsuch said he and his colleagues sing happy birthday to each other, grill burgers at employee picnics and play practical jokes.

"That's the Supreme Court I know," he said.

Officials say the Supreme Court's justices rule unanimously in 40% of the 70 cases they hear in an October-to-May term.

Gorsuch says he is concerned about the deterioration of civic education. He said only about one-third of millennials think it's important to live in a democracy.

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