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Gorsuch Gets a Unanimous Vote, and Gives a Grammar Lesson, in His First Opinion

Justice Neil Gorsuch had the backing of his eight colleagues on Monday for his first written opinion as a member of the Supreme Court.

There will be plenty of times in Justice Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court career when he disagrees with some of his colleagues, but his first written opinion on the Court was a unanimous decision.

Gorsuch wrote the “unanimous Court” opinion, decided on Monday, in a case called Henson et al. v. Santander Consumer USA, Inc.

Bloomberg reported on the case:

Writing for a unanimous court, Gorsuch said the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act doesn’t authorize lawsuits against companies that buy defaulted loans from another lender. The ruling is a victory for a Santander Consumer USA Holdings Inc. unit, blocking claims by people who defaulted on their auto loans.

According to Bloomberg, Gorsuch also offered the plaintiffs a grammar lesson:

The borrowers, who were seeking to press a class-action case, argued that the word “owed” was in the past tense, meaning the provision covered any debt previously owed to another entity.

That reasoning “doesn’t follow even as a matter of good grammar, let alone ordinary meaning,” Gorsuch wrote. “Past participles like ‘owed’ are routinely used as adjectives to describe the present state of a thing — so, for example, burnt toast is inedible, a fallen branch blocks the path, and (equally) a debt owed to a current owner may be collected by him or her.”

The Senate confirmed Gorsuch to the Supreme Court in April. Rumor has it that a possible retirement this year may give President Trump the opportunity to appoint another Supreme Court justice.