CHARLESTON – A well-known Kanawha County Democrat says he thinks Neil Gorsuch is well qualified to become the next United States Supreme Court justice.

“Advice and consent doesn’t mean you have to be politically attuned with a nominee,” said Kent Carper, an attorney who also is president of the Kanawha County Commission. “It should be about the person’s qualifications. And I don’t think anyone can say Judge Gorsuch is not totally qualified.

“Also, I fervently believe that when the American people elect a president, the president should have wide latitude and respect for his or her nominees. But still, I think it ultimately should come down to his intellect and his qualifications. That makes it a simple decision to me.

"First of all, I don't know why anybody would care what I think about this. But if I had a vote, I would vote for him. Who am I to even think someone like him is not qualified to hold that office? Me being a Democrat has nothing to do with that. He’s qualified.”

Carper has experience vetting judges. He’s a member of the state Judicial Advisory Board, which interviews candidates for open state judgeships before making recommendations to the governor.

“I have voted on a number of recommendations for judges across the state,” he said. “And our recommendations have been approved about 95 percent of the time. When I look at judicial candidates, I always compare them to (former state Supreme Court) Justice (Thomas) McHugh and (US. District Judge) John Copenhaver among others. One Democrat and one Republican, by the way. Both excellent jurists. And if the candidate stacks up well to those judges, then I feel good about recommending them.

“And Gorsuch certainly stacks up. Here’s what I like about him. And I don’t claim to be a constitutionalist. But he has a penchant for being concerned about overreaching by government agencies. His writings show a keen disinterest in overreach. And I, frankly, support that.”

Carper, a partner at Hill Peterson Carper Bee & Deitzler, admits Gorsuch likely wouldn’t be his first choice.

“I would’ve picked Donald Trump’s sister,” he said with a laugh, referring to Maryanne Trump Barry, an inactive Senior Judge of the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. “Seriously, I heard she was a very good judge.”

Carper also said he thinks the U.S. Senate was wrong to not confirm Merrick Garland, who was President Obama’s choice for the vacant seat left by the February 2016 death of Antonin Scalia.

“What they did to the previous nominee was absolutely terrible,” he said. “But that has nothing to do with Gorsuch.”

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