Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch’s baffling ruling against a commercial truck driver who had to temporarily abandon his tractor-trailer to save himself from freezing to death appears to have pushed enough Democrat votes in the Senate to successfully impede the nomination.
The case of truck driver Alphonse Maddin against his former employer, Trans Am Trucking, was widely circulated by the news and social media after Mr. Gorsuch sparred with Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who used the case to demonstrate how Mr. Gorsuch may be unfit to serve as a Supreme Court Justice.
In 2009, Mr. Maddin was driving in Illinois in subzero temperatures when the brakes on his loaded tractor-trailer froze. After he called Trans Am to send help, the truck’s heater gave out and the cabin of the truck grew increasingly colder to the point where Mr. Maddin began to experience the symptoms of hypothermia, including numbness, fatigue, trouble breathing, and slurred speech. Mr. Maddin said he fell asleep waiting for the help that never arrived and noticed when he woke up that the temperature in the cabin of his truck was 14 degrees below zero.
Mr. Maddin talked with Trans Am multiple times throughout the ordeal, each time being told to remain with the truck until help arrived. It wasn’t until he knew he would freeze to death if he remained in the truck that Mr. Maddin left the trailer to go somewhere to warm up.
He later returned to the truck and finished the job, but Trans Am fired him anyway for disobeying its orders to remain with the vehicle.
Mr. Maddin sued Trans Am over for wrongful termination and won his case at every level in multiple courts. When Trans Am appealed and the case went to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals (the court on which Mr. Gorsuch currently sits), Mr. Gorsuch gave the court’s lone dissenting opinion against Mr. Maddin, who still won the case with the other judges ruling in his favor.
When questioned about his dissent during the confirmation hearing, Gorsch defended his stance in the case saying federal law only protects commercial drivers who refuse to work because of bad weather, a safety violation, or illness, and said Mr. Maddin’s case technically fit none of those criteria.
“It might be fair to ask whether TransAm’s decision was a wise or kind one. But it’s not our job to answer questions like that. Our only task is to decide whether the decision was an illegal one,” Gorsuch wrote in his dissent.
Sen. Franken called Gorsuch’s opinion in the case “an absurdity,” and he and other senators used the dissent to demonstrate that Gorsuch is too ready to side with corporate interests no matter how ruthless those interests are, even to the point of valuing a truck run over a human life.