Justice Gorsuch’s “Trepidation”

On Thursday morning the Supreme Court made a decision Babcock v. Kijakazi. This was not what people had hoped for. However, BabcockImportant. My count was: BabcockThe first Keep checking back regularlyThe Court has ruled in favor of this sentence. On the rocket docket two cases were decided. WWH v. Jackson U.S. v. Texas. The Court ruled in one instance, which was outside its jurisdiction. Mississippi v. Tennessee. It seems that the urgency to act has slowened the pace at which decisions are made this term.

I was unable to find the right words. BabcockAfter the first page, Barrett gave up. This tedious Social Security case was given to Justice Barrett, who received an 8-1 affirm. Woe to the junior justice. But I did turn to Justice Gorsuch’s solo dissent. It starts:

This narrow issue of the statutory interpretation is my only disagreement. I am ashamed to be it. Trepidation. Still, I cannot help but find compelling the arguments advanced by the petitioner before us and by the Eighth Circuit in Petersen v. Astrue, 633 F. 3d 633, 637–638 (2011).

I heard the word “trepidation” jump out. It’s hard to remember when a Justice has expressed so much self doubt in an opinion. Justice Gorsuch seems to me the most self-confident Justice. Look! Bostock And McGirt. Gorsuch, however, approaches this case with humility.

In curiosity, I sought out the Supreme Court word “trepidation” in the Supreme Court database. The word had never been used before in these past 30 years, but Justice Gorsuch was the only other use of it. Doe v. Mills dissent:

All this suggests that Maine will not only respect mere Trepidation over vaccination as sufficient, but only so long as it is phrased in medical and not religious terms. This kind of double standard should be enough to prompt at least an additional (strict scrutiny) review.

I love this method. This is a solo-dissenter telling his eight colleagues that they’re wrong. This task is even more difficult for a simple Social Security case. An overwhelming feeling of “trepidation”, which is more than any obligatory “respectful” disapproval, helps to soften the blow.