Gorsuch defended his dissent in what has become known as the “frozen trucker” case, an opinion that Gorush critics have pointed to as proof that the judge has a tendency to prioritize the interests of CEOs over the working class, but also one that has brought Gorsuch praise from those who support his approach the law.
Gorsuch said at his confirmation hearing Tuesday that his opinion may have been an “unkind” one, but that it got at “what my job is, and what it isn’t.”
The case, which came before Gorsuch as a member of a three-judge appeals panel, concerned a trucker who had been fired from his job because he had unhooked and left his trailer on the side of the road after its brakes had become frozen. A dispatcher had told him to stay with the trailer until a repairman arrived, but in his unheated truck cab in the below-freezing temperatures the trucker became numb and feared for his safety. Gorsuch had disagreed with the rest of panel, which ruled that the trucker was protected by a law the bars truck companies from firing drivers who refuse to operate their vehicles out of fears for their safety.
“The law as written said that he would be protected if he refused to operate and I think by any plain understanding he operated the vehicle,” Gorsuch said Tuesday, when asked about the case. “My job isn’t to write the law, Senator. It is to apply the law. And if Congress passes the law saying a trucker in those circumstances gets to choose how to operate his vehicle, I will be the first one in line to enforce it. “