March 21, 2017

So after stealing the Supreme Court seat from Merrick Garland, the GOP is trying to push through a truly awful candidate: Neil Gorsuch. His hearings this far have been fairly boring with him trying to tap dance around answering any questions about virtually anything. Clearly, the GOP is hoping the Trump Russia collusion and the Trumpcare nightmare will distract enough to get this man on the Supreme Court to ensure that Scalia's seat stays firmly seated in the 1960's with stripped rights for women, minorities and the "little guy" and a renewed focus on religion, corporations and Wall Street first.

One of the most disgusting rulings thus far has been dubbed the "Frozen Trucker" ruling. Slate had an excellent article summarizing the main points of the case:

"Alphonse Maddin was a truck driver for TransAm. Late on a January night in temperatures below zero, he discovered that his trailer’s brakes had locked up due to the cold weather. (The truck itself could drive but not when attached to the trailer). He called TransAm’s road service for help at 11:17 p.m., and then discovered that the truck cabin’s heat was broken. He fell asleep and woke up two hours later with a numb torso. Maddin also could not feel his feet. He called the road service again, and they told him to “hang in there” despite the life-threatening conditions. He waited about 30 more minutes before unhitching the broken trailer. Although his supervisor ordered him to stay, Maddin decided to drive off with the truck after almost three hours in the subzero cold. A service truck did arrive 15 minutes after he left, but it’s hard to blame him for deciding not to risk his life. It’s amazing he waited so long at all."

So this poor man is sitting in a truck with NO heat in below-freezing temperatures and the company tells him to wait...for hours. He didn't wait. He unhitched the trailer and drove the cab to a place to get warm before returning. So what did the company do? They fired him.

He filed a complaint with OSHA and Dept of Labor claiming that he was protected as a whistleblower which prevents an employer from firing an employee who “refuses to operate a vehicle because ... the employee has a reasonable apprehension of serious injury to the employee or the public.” Well, the Dept of Labor sided with him! Excellent, right?

Not so fast. TransAm appealed.

Two appeals judges ruled that under something called the "Chevron Deference" which loosely translated means that if a statute is ambiguous, the courts must defer to any "reasonable interpretation. It's complicated, but it would help Maddin....were it not for Gorsuch.

Gorsuch went in the opposite direction and ruled that this statute did not apply to Maddin and that since he drove his truck, he was not protected. In his callous and dismissive ruling, Gorsuch said, "Someone [at TransAm] gave him two options. He could drag the trailer carrying the company’s goods to its destination (an illegal and maybe sarcastically offered option). Or he could sit and wait for help to arrive (a legal if unpleasant option). The trucker chose None of the Above."

Gorsuch called sitting in the freezing cold for hours with the risk of frostbite (or possibly death) to be merely "unpleasant." Wow, compassion is not Gorsuch's strong suit.

Going into today's questioning, Gorsuch had to know this was going to be a hot button case for Democrats. You know, the party that actually cares about people once they are born, not just when they are in the womb.

Sen. Franken went right for the jugular on the case. After a lengthy back and forth where Gorsuch refused to answer any question directly, Franken said what we all feel: the ruling he gave was "absurd."

Franken's retort: “It is absurd to say [the company] in its rights to fire him because he made the choice of possibly dying from freezing to death or cause other people to die possible by driving an unsafe vehicle. That’s absurd. Now, I had a career in identifying absurdity. And I know it when I see it. And it makes me question your judgement.”

Just a reminder, Merrick Garland was denied a full hearing because Turtle McConnell said Obama was in his last year and therefore the voters should have a voice (via the election).

It appears that Trump is in his last year (or months), so why should he be allowed to nominate someone to a lifetime seat on the highest court of the land? McConnell has been silent on the matter. Maybe he sucked his head all the way into his turtleneck?

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