tv Former Colleagues of Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch Discuss His Career... CSPAN March 19, 2017 9:43pm-10:40pm EDT
announcer: you have been watching questions from the british house of commons. announcer: tomorrow fbi james comey -- fbi director james coming testifies in front of the house intelligence committee about russian influence in the 2016 election. c-span3 will have live coverag ginning at 10 a.m. eastern. you can also watch on c-span.org and listen on seized and radio at -- cspan's radio app. announcer: now former clerks for gorsuche nominee neil discuss his relationship with
colleague record. this is 65. -- 55 minutes. john: good afternoon. welcome to the heritage foundation. we of course welcome those who join us on our heritage.org website and those who will be viewing this program on c-span as well. for those in-house, we would ask that kind courtesy to see that our mobile devices have been silenced or turned off. and of course for those watching online, they are welcome to send questions or comments at any time, simply emailing, email@example.com. we will of course post the program following today's presentation on the heritage home page. leading our discussion is elizabeth slattery. she writes about the supreme court, separation of powers, judicial nominations and a variety of constitutional issues.
she also manages heritage's a appellate advocacy programs. including court sessions, to prepare litigaters for oral argument in cases pending before the supreme court. please join me in welcoming elizabeth. [applause] elizabeth: thank you, john. president donald trump selected neil gorsuch, a judge on the 10th circuit court of appeals, to fill the supreme court vacancy left by justice scalia's passing last year. judge gorsuch has spent the last 10 years writing countless opinions and establishing himself as a thoughtful jurist who pays close attention to the text and original public meaning of laws and the constitution. he has an impressive judicial record, years of government service, including clerking for justice anthony kennedy. but what kind of colleague, friend and boss is judge gorsuch? we'll hear from a panel of his former law clerks today.
but first we'll hear from mark hanson, his former law partner, and boss, who has been quoted as saying that gorsuch was born with silver hair and an inexhaustible store of winston churchill quotes. mark is a partner at the law firm kellogg hanson. with more than 30 years of experience, mark has been the lead trial counsel in cases across the country, representing prominent clients such as the u.s. government, the kingdom of saudi arabia, large corporations, including general electric and verizon. he's tried more than 30 cases and has argued more than 20 appeals. mark previously served as an assistant u.s. attorney for the southern district of new york. and as a law clerk to judge william timbers of the second circuit court of appeals. he's a graduate of dartmouth college and harvard law school. [applause] mark: thank you very much, elizabeth. good afternoon, everybody. i wrote a title for my little talk today. it will be about 20 minutes. title is, i knew him when.
because we all know the phenomenon of somebody who hits a home run to win the world series or wins the power ball, emerging from obscurity and suddenly everyone asks the question, who is this person? who do we know about her or him? of course somebody who is nominated to the united states supreme court, that's an extraordinary thing. and when neil gorsuch becomes that nominee, obviously all eyes turn to neil. so the reporters and the public tracks back to the early days. to the people, the people like me, who knew him when. we love to get a little bit of reflected glory. i have a story i love to hear from a friend of mine. he's a legal academic. among other things he argued a very prominent case to the haitian refugees a number of years ago at the u.s. supreme court. and as he finishes his argument he came out to those iconic supreme court steps and was surrounded by reporters hanging on his every word. from stage right this figure
came striding toward him saying, i want to congratulate my best friend, my good friend, the man who worked so tirelessly with me to save the haitian refugees. my brother, my friend, he leans close and puts his arm around my friend, the academic, gets in the picture frame, turns to him and says, what's your name? [laughter] well, i know neil gorsuch. i know his name and i worked with him for a decade. we practiced civil trial law together. across the united states. a variety of cases. and i'm happy to be here today to tell you what that experience might suggest to you and to the public about the kind of supreme court justice neil gorsuch is likely to be. unlike our president, who is going to be turned out either four years from now or eight years from now, he can't serve longer than eight years, neil gorsuch, who is being appointed, nominated and is confirmed to
the supreme court, could be there for 40 years, 50 years. think about it. neil is only 49 years old. he's in great physical condition. do not let that gray hair dye fool you. he's been applying that since georgetown prep, just so he could be considered for a supreme court nomination. that's how he is. [laughter] obviously the best clue for what kind of justice neil gorsuch will be are in the 800 published opinions he's issueds a judge es cou united statrt o appeals to the 10th circuit. with us today are three distinguished former law clerks who are going to describe for what you those opinions tell us about his way of being a judge. i will tell that you we've been fortunate enough, our little firm, to work with two of those three. i'm sorry, we missed out on the third. and neil had some fabulous job early on in his tenure as a judge, to really take care of the best law clerks. he sent them off to the u.s. supreme court. he gets great people that helps him do a great job. that's something you should take
note of. on the supreme court he's likely to do the same thing. think of it. neil has written 800 majority opinions. that's about 80 a year. the u.s. supreme court takes up roughly 80 merit cases a year. so, we learn a lot from the opinions and neil writes well. a lot of commentary on how neil writes. he's a good a, careful writer. tells us what he thinks and why he thinks it. if you're wanting to, you can pull down those 800 opinions and pore over them. i will tell you, i don't want to steal the thunder of the law clerks, not all of them are marbury vs. madison. there's, for example, the a.m. vs. holmes case, where neil took up the pivotal question of whether a student has the right to burp in class. and now scholars can consider whether burping's a right, where neil found that right, and whether there are reasonable restrictions that apply to that right. joking aside, we have in addition to neil's 800 opinions
a decade of service as a private lawyer. we know that neil gorsuch was a serious, committed civil trial lawyer with an active nationwide practice. that was pretty much all he did for the 10 years between his student days, his clerkship days, and his time on the bench. he didn't get active in politics. he didn't have a lot of hobbies. he was a hardworking civil trial lawyer. i would say that there's very little that's been written about that time in neil's career. certainly very little has been written in depth. but a lot about what he put in his yearbook at georgetown prep, spent a lot of his time on the bench. but not that much about his time as a civil trial lawyer. i would argue to you today that that experience as a civil trial lawyer, working in the trenches of our court system, is as telling about what neil can be like as a justice as anything perhaps other than his service as an actual judge. i'd certainly put it way ahead of whether he wrote silly things in a newspaper column in columbia, for example.
any of us who didn't do those things should be ashamed of ourselves. let's set expectations at the right level. neil had a great talent for civil trial law. he was headed for a notable career as a trial lawyer. and a lucrative one at that. but he was still a pretty young rising lawyer when he left the practice at age 38 or 39. and went into public service. that said, mean nothing disrespect to the eight current sitting justices, i think it's fair to say that neil's deep and lengthy engagement with our civil justice system exceeds that of any nominee to the united states supreme court since john paul stevens in 1975. do the math. that's 42 years ago. we've gone 42 years since when he a supreme court nominee with as much experience -- we had a supreme court nominee with as much experience in our system of
advocacy, our system of litigation, as neil gorsuch. our supreme court is comprised today of distinguished lawyers, most of whom have never tried a civil jury case to verdict. those of us who try cases would argue that deep experience with the thing that we use it resolve our disputes is absolutely of pivotal importance to those on the bench. facts matter. records matter. what happens in litigation is messy. it is human. it is far from an antiseptic process. it is far from an abstract intellectual exercise presented in the form of a cold record to an appellate court. cases arrive from life from lived experience. the life of law is not logic of experience. those of us who try cases know that very well. neil gorsuch has a strong grounding in our system. he understands his strengths and he understands his weaknesses as well. he understands how the law affects real people.
he's been an advocate for real people. everyday people, a well as large corporations, and he's seen it from all sides. this has to be a big plus for anybody who is going to go and take up a position as a supreme court justice. what else do we know about neil? we know he worked hard. i'm here to tell that you hard work is big part of it. you hear a lot about work-life balance and so on. but i went back and checked. in his years as a partner, about seven years as a partner, neil billed between 2,400 and 3,000 hours a year. that's billable working time. that's a lot. he actually built substantially less as an associate. which is the support i use for the argument that we partners work far harder than our associates. but neil was a hard worker. why do i think that's significant? because once we elevate folks to the supreme court, there's really no check on how hard they work. we rely on them to work as hard as their conscience dictates. that's a hard job. enormous amounts of material to master, enormous complexities to the issues.
we've all seen or heard or read reports about how justices and history, certainly not talking about current justices, but there have been justices over the course of history who for whatever reasons, health, age, boredom, have checked out. let their clerks do the work for them. i think we have enormous confidence that's not going to happen to neil. he's a constitutionally hard worker. two, he's been exposed to a lot. that we know from his time in practice. not only was he an active trial lawyer but he worked for both sides of the v, as i like to call it. i'll give you a sampler of some of the cases he worked on. with me. there was a case that involved refund anticipation laws issued by an accounting firm. loans where people could got get an advance on their government refund. the bad part was they had a sneaky 400% interest rate affixeto them. neil and i and others put
together a class action. hopefully i won't be struck by a bolt of lightning. we represented the plaintiffs in that case. and we tried to get a class certified because we thought these loans were really abusive. ultimately they were stopped. our class representive in that case was an absolutely impressive army master sergeant. a female, and african-american. she agreed to serve the class representative for one reason and one reason alone. she thought it was the right thing to do. i remember how deeply neil and i felt about trying to get justice for this woman and the other people who had been victimized by this scheme. remember that case. because it's a pretty telling indicator on the other side of the v. there was a theft case for a small iranian immigrant doctor who owns an airport outside college park, maryland. he owned this airport that had a gravel pit on it and a big construction company was stealing the gravel. neil took that case like a
bulldog. obtained great results for that doctor. there was a very large section two anti-trust case we brought in kentucky involving a monopolist who was squashing smaller rivals. largestped optian the ust judgment ever. i was the lead lawyer. nobody's interested in me today. we'll make this about neil. finally, there was a tortist interference case for a beloved cherry hospital here in washington who was put out of business by an insurance company. neil obtained a stunningly great verdict. it wasn't like we were always robin hood. we were also defendants too. neil defended a monopolization claim brought by an upstart telephone company against what is now at&t. he defended the derivative action brought against a leading entrepreneur in delaware court when the entrepreneur was
allegedly taking too much money out of the group of theaters. there was a case against ford motor company and some of the car designers, having to do with rollovers, broncos two's, where we had to defend honest, hardworking people, who tried to do good job on the cars. plaintiffs said they were deliberately trying to create bad cars that killed people? neil defended a case for a leading insurer when doctors came after the insurer, saying the insurer refused to pay claims. the doctor had validly presented when he did 50 different operations supposedly on one hand. that's just a sampling of the cases. there were many, many more. i hope it gives you some sense the breadth of the practice, the variety of the practice, the subject areas that neil worked in. i think you count find a supreme court nominee who had a broader -- i don't think you could find a supreme court nominee who had a broader litigation experience or a deeper grounding in what we do. when he takes his seat on the court he may be unique among his colleagues in his broad firsthand understanding of how the law affects real people and
real life. i thinthat's a huge asset for anyone who is going to be asked to resolve the important questions our supreme court is asked to resolve. next on my list of book of virtues, i have william bennett, approach to this speech. he's got a very independent streak. we know that from his time in practice. usually when we say that at our little firm about young partners or associates, it means they're contrary and difficult to work with. that's not what i mean when i talk about neil. what i mean when i talk about neil is that he does what he thinks is right. every time. for example, he came to our little firm and, instead of going to the standard traditional law firms that most people of his background go to, he decided to go to someplace where could he get more experience faster. that was an unconventional choice. but he made it and never looked back. he chose to ground himself in trial work rather than the appellate work that a lot of people with the sort of beautiful clerkship resume-type backgrounds, people like neil have, instead of confining himself to that abstract exercise, he dove into the muck
and mess of real life litigation. which was an unconventional choice. i will tell you, my dad was general counsel to a major company. he chose to work with plaintiff set of defendant. i grew up thinking defendants were always right didn't take me long in the practice of law to be disabused of that. no one is always right. sometimes plaintiffs are right, sometimes defendants are right. our system depends on the ability and willingness of lawyers to take both sides. to look at things from both sides of the street. to not be a cause-oriented lawyer but take up the cause of the client and bring the client the best result you can obtain for the client consistent with the rules of ethics and the law. i think it's also extraordinary that neil, on the cusp of a real great career as a civil trial lawyer, very lucrative career, gave it all up. he foreswore it and went into public service. that shows his independent streak too.
felt the calling to do public service and turned his back on what would have been a very lucrative and satisfying career. so at the end of the day, these and a million other things i could cite to you, are evidence of the fact that neil's not going to do what anybody tells him to do. neil's going to do what he thinks is right. he has a firm compass that guides his actions. number four on my elicit of virtues is that neil is level-handed in his demeanor and has a good temperament. i'll tell you a couple of stories on that one. a sense of humor helps. we live in a pressure world, we have contentious activities. we fight with people for a living. that's what litigators do. it helps to be able to deflect that tension with humor. we go to charlottesvle to try a case against a big accounting firm. we told our office manager to go find us an economical office space. neil showed up ahead of me down in charlottesville and he looked around this basement, a basement, had these tiny little cubicles you couldn't even turn around in.
our office manager had done too well. she had gotten us a very economical trial space. neil said, we'll call it das boat because it looked like a german submarine. i know it's being televised and people are here, please, no one write that neil's an admirer of the german navy. please, please, please. he was not an admirer of the german navy. but we were all familiar with the movie. it was a perfect characterization of our trial office. we'll meet you at das boat at 2:00. neil gets along with people, even adversaries. there have been stories in the press already. i'll tell you a story i find amusing. that's this one. when we had an adversary who had this habit of calling me, we'd have a conversation. something would annoy him during the conversation, he'd slam the phone down. every time.
that creates wear and tear, to have to deal with that. i called the person up and said, john, i know you like to slam the phone down on me but the day is going to come when you're going to want to call me and i won't take the phone anymore. he used a word that reflected his view of the subject that didn't give me confidence he understood my message. \[laughter] so i didn't talk to him on the phone anymore. fast forward about a year. neil comes to my office and said, john's been calling me. i said, why? he said, he said you won't take his call. that's right. i told him i wouldn't. john wants to pay you $1,300,000,000. i'm not going to take his call. mark, pick the $1,300,000,000. i'm not going to talk to the guy. you have to understand the pressure that was involved. at that time all the final appeals had been exhausted and interest was running on this enormous judgment. john wanted to get rid of the money because otherwise he was going to pay $300,000 a day.
it's hurting john to not have me take his call. finally neil said, don't worry. i'll tell you what, you'll never have to talk to john. don't worry about it. he went behind my back and called john and said, we'll work this out. mark's crazy. he managed to work out all the details of payment without offending me or annoying me, cooperatively with john, got the client's interests served. my little homily was made clear to john. it all worked out fine. i can tell you lots of other stories. but i think the important part of it is that neil is a consensus builder. he finds common ground with people. he has a warm personality. he gets along with people. we're not sending people to go to the supreme court to be a pariah. i hope we're sending someone to go to the supreme court to work with his or her colleagues. to influence them, to persuade, to be a colleague. i think neil has enormously wonderful personalities and it will be helpful to him in that effort. -- very wonderful interpersonal
qualities and it will be helpful to him in that effort. hopefully i'm not too far along in my time. i know there's a hook someplace for me if i'm overdoing it. but once we senior partners start to tell stories, there's no limit. i'll give you my virtue number five. what kind of person is me? -- is he? does he get along with people, does he work hard? yeah, probably all pretty familiar stuff. but do we know anything about him that tells us what he's like at his core? do we have something that tells out chacter? i would say that we do. one of my favorite stories. it's this. we had a case for a big investment bank in florida. that we were called in to defend after the judge had defaulted the investment bank. they'd found an investment bank and committed gross misconduct in discovery. had agreed to treat the plaintiff's complaint as true, even though it wasn't. had basically said, we're going to try the case on damages. i got hired to do that case as i
was sitting there watching another law firm do jury selection. i'll tell you, my stomach sank because what am i going to do with this thing? can't tell you how scary this was. not only did the judge default the client, but the judge was convinced that massive obstruction of justice had occurred. it had career-ender written all over it. it really did. death to your career. so much so that when the trial ended, the judge held an extraordinary proceeding the likes of which i have never seen anywhere elsewhere she considered seriously appointing the other side's lawyer as a special prosecutor under florida law to conduct a criminal investigation of us. with the power to indict. us. why do i tell that you story? because after i got hired i thought, what am i going to do? the other law firm had been fired. they weren't going to work on it
anymore. it was an enormously complicated case. yikes. ky finish this story and stop? i called neil. neil's already heading off to government. he already had his plan to do his time at the department of justice. it would have been completely understandable for neil to say, you know, i got a hair appointment next week. i have to get my hair dyed. i have other things to do. he could have come up with a million excuse or said to me, my career is too important to me. i'm not going to strap myself into this burning boat and go down with you. excuse me while i get a drink. what he said was, he put his career on the line. i think that tells you a lot about the guy's person. neil gorsuch. so, what america's getting, judge gorsuch is a highly intelligent, principled and
experienced man with a deep experience in our civil justice system. that's why i and every one of his old partnerships sent a letter to the senate saying you need him on the united states supreme court. i would say getting 40 independents, republicans and democrats, who won't even agree on the kind of coffee to stock in the kitchen, supporting neil gorsuch is an extraordinary strong letter of recommendation. thank you all. [applause] elizabeth: now we'll hear from neil gorsuch's former law clerks. jameel worked in the justice department's office of legal policy and the white house's office during the bush administration and he served for the senate foreign relations committee. and senior counsel to the house intelligence committee. he was one of judge gorsuch's
very first law clerks. he also clerked for jones of the fifth circuit. he's a graduate of ucla, the university of chicago law school, and the united states naval war college. second, we'll hear from jane. she's a fellow at the harvard law school where his scholarship focuses on executive power. she -- where her scholarship focus on the national security and executive power. she previously served in the justice department's office of legal counsel during the obama administration and as an associate at kellogg hanson. she's a graduate of harvard law school as well as harvard college. she clerked for judge gorsuch and then for justice sotomayor. then finally, we'll hear from matt owen, who is a staff director and chief council of the u.s. senate permanent subcommittee on investigations, chaired by senator rob portman. he previously served as chief counsel to senator mike lee as a bristow fellow, and as a law clerk to judge gorsuch and justice antonin scalia. he's a graduate of the university of texas at austin and the university of michigan law school.
jameel: thanks to the heritage foundation for having all of us and thanks to mark forgiving such a tribute to judge gorsuch who is a truly amazing person. i'm going talk a little bit about the person that neil gorsuch, judge neil gorsuch, is. and the way he affected my life in particular. i saw him in three different capacities over the course of the time that i've known hit fashion and him. ive known him. when i first arrived at kellogg hanson back in 2004, judge gorsuch was a partner at the law firm. i was a young associate fresh out of law school in a clerkship with judge edith jones. i didn't know anything about the law. i started to meet partners and associates and the like and sort of learn about what the practice of law was like. i will say, kellogg hanson is a very unique firm. my first ever deposition of the firm was of a former federal district judge who had been 10 years on bench, having the chief
judge of the district, had been a partner at williams and connolly and was a chief legal counsel. they really throw you into the water, the deep water fast. but judge gorsuch at the time, was a very approachable person. he was a partner. you expect these partners to be really sort of unapproachable. they're intimidating and scary. he was none of those things. he was only at the law firm for a couple of months before he went to the justice department and i was there. in the brief time i knew him there i got to know a guy who is very accessible, down to earth, approachable, and this held true over the entire course of the -- well over, now, 13, 14 years that i've known him. got to know him a little bit there. the judge at the time. off he goes to the justice department. little did i know that just nine months later i'd be following him to the justice department when mark was kind enough to let me leave the law firm after only a few months there to go work on the confirmations of then judge and now chief justice john roberts, then judge and now
justice sam ito. and white house counsel harriet miers. so it was a really unique opportunity to see judge gorsuch at the time in his role in the associate times. i didn't work directly for him. the component i worked for didn't report to him. it was the office of legal policy run by rachel brand who is now a professor and has been nominated to be the associate attorney general, the number three at the justice department. but i got to know judge gorsuch in a different capacity. as practicing lawyer in the federal government. that was really interesting. i saw him manage an entire set of divisions, the entire civil litigating arm of the justice department from the associate's office. he had a very practical view of this. very approachable. a young man at the time. he was in his late 30's. i was in my late 20's, early 30's at the same time. then come to find out that the bush administration was considering nominating him to be a judge on the 10th circuit.
i knew this guy back when he was a young lawyer, a young partner, and now he's a young senior official at the justice department. this is kind of crazy. my boss comes to me and says, can you do the vetting on this guy? i said, actually, i can't. i knew him at the law firm. so i feel like i might be conflicted out. i can't really be involved. ultimately did the vetting, decided to nominate him to the court of appeals. i said, now i can help with the nominations. i did. this was after all the supreme court stuff had nished. ultimately he was confmed to the bench. then he says, i need to hire law clerks. i had a friend of mine who had never planned on clerking for any judge. she ultimately ended up clerking for two appellate judges, including judge gorsuch. this guy, so young, so dynamic, he's going back to denver. heather's in denver, she would love this young man. i said, you should talk to heather. he did. he hired her.
hired two other law clerks, including a friends of mine who at the time was moving from the white house to the justice department to work in the criminal division. had been a special assistant united states attorney and he hired mike and mike ended up -- now has his own private law practice in denver. changed his life. he went from living in iowa, in d.c., to having a private law practice now with two other folks in denver, colorado. then judge gorsuch had one more spot. said, you should come clerk for me. it's funny, you look back and think, what an idiot i was back in those days. i said, i already clerked. i clerked for judge edith jones. the queen of the federal judiciary when it comes to folks who are conservative. i'm not going to clerk for you in denver. that's so crazy. but he said, he made a convincing case that said, you know, it's ski season in denver. [laughter] pretty good point. i was afraid actually to leave
the justice department at the time because i had been there a year. my plan was to go back to kellogg hanson. i said, i was actually a little worried. rachel brand had given me these unique opportunities to work on supreme court nominations right out of law school. i was afraid kellogg hanson would say, are you crazy? you're going to go clerk again? i said, i'll make you a deal. i'll come clerk for you if you ask rachel. n you imagine what an obnoxious human being to say, you go ask my boss? he did. she said yes. off i went to go clerk for him. i only spent four months with him. let me tell you about who he was as a judge. i saw him move from being a partner in the law firm to being
a federal attorney, to being a judge. what's amazing about that transition is he did it with grace and dignity and honor and in a way that makes you think, god, that's a judge's judge. went from being an advocate to being a policy deciding lawyer in the justice department, ultimately to being a neutral decision maker. going to work for him for the first four months was amazing. you watch that transformation. beyond that transformation, you also saw a young man who was sort of coming into his own. i remember the first day that mike davis and i arrived in colorado, he took us alpine sledding. it wasn't a work day. alpine sledding is one of the things that people do in colorado when the mountains aren't covered in snow. you try to race each other. we went down the mountain twice. he beat us. that's pretty embarrassing. then he taught us how to fly fish. this is a man who loves fly fishing.
very normal, down to earth human being. i was so bad at fly fishing by the way that ultimately took the fly rod out might have hand and said, i'm going to get the fish on the line for you, then you reel it in. when we started working for him, the first thing he asked me to work on was to make sure we handled the ethics of becoming a judge properly. to look at all the laws and statutes, all the regulations, make sure he handled the fact that he was coming out of a law firm, coming out of the justice department, he handled all those things ethically. we worked together to make sure he implemented the rules properly. he was very serious about that. we spent a lot of time revising the memo and looking at the material and looking at the various parties and making decisions that went well beyond the law. well beyond the requirement. he wanted to ensure there was no question that he was doing the right thing. that's the same way he approaches the cases. he looks at the law first and then looks at the arguments the
parties are making before him. he tries to figure out, what does the law say about this case before me? he doesn't try to make the law for the cases coming in the future. he doesn't look to go beyond the arguments made by the parties. he doesn't look to go beyond the text of the law. tries to apply the law faithfully as written by congress. drafted by the framers of our constitution. and apply it fairly and evenhandedly to the parties before him. with that i'm getting the stop signal so i'll turn it over to my colleagues. jane: i thought i'd talk about how the judge approaches cases and then end with his personal side. so one thing that struck me from day one coming off of law school is in law school they teach a little bit of a cynical side of the law. they teach that the judiciary is a place for doll politics and a -- for doing politics and a lot of judges are politicians in robes. i came are off of law school and had this in mind.
it was a real shock to me to clerk from day one for a judge that conveyed from really the moment -- the first case i had with him that that's not how it goes in his chambers, his chamber is all about the rule of law and all about a place where the judiciary is not a place for politics. it's not a place for personal preferences. it's a place for real law, for the text of the statutes, text of the constitution, where the framers originallynderstood, what do the arguments say. so that really struck me. because to they day, i had conversations with friends where they had sort of a very cynical view of the judiciary and i think that one thing i feel blessed about was to have had the opportunity to clerk for someone who conveyed to me this deep, deep, deep sense that our democracy can only function if it is in the representative branches, where policies are being done.
so that was the first thing that struck me. then the second thing that struck me was the way in which he approached all cases. whether they were high profile, low profile. it didn't matter. with an enormous amount of care and respect. i remember one case in particular, i won't get into the specifics of it, where it was very much low profile case, was not a case that was going to get into the newspapers. but he had not one but two clerks who would sift through the record. it was a tricky question. we want through it for days and weeks to get to the right answer. that was typical with the judge in all his cases. that struck as well. on a personal side. the way i came to the judge was i put together in law school this list of judges that i wanted to clerk for. i was one of the very early clerks when i was applying on
the bench for a year and a half, i hasn't heard interest him. -- i had not heard of him. andd my list of 23 judges my friend looked at the list and said to add judge gorsuch. he just took the bench. i heard him give a speech. and he seems just brilliant. i think you should go. so i applied. i was fortunate enough to get an interview with him. i actually confessed reluctantly that i wasn't sure, do i really want to fly out to colorado? i wasn't sure and i was even debating possibly canceling. i flew out there. by the end of the interview just thought, if he offers me the position, i would be blessed to clerk for him. even within the short span of 30 to 40 minutes, i could see his brilliance and this incisive questioning. and also what a kind, decent man he was. there was a real warmth that radiated from him.
that has been my experience with him. i've known him now for 10 years. he's virtually the first person i call whenever i have any question about my career or really even some aspects of my personal life. he takes the time on the phone to talk it through with me. he offers any help that he can give. he's been a true mentor to me and a lot of folks. on thai'll end on one last story. many students apply to the supreme court right in law school. and get accepted to the supreme court clerkship right out of law school. i didn't apply. i don't recall applying during my clerkship. i thought it was something that was out of reach. wasn't going happen for me. it was really the judge that just pressed day in and day out, you should really apply and that encouraged me and thanks to him, i was fortunate enough to have a later experience of the clerkship on the supreme court. that's just an episode that demonstrates really his mentorship qualities and how he's looking out for really
everyone. on that i'll turn it over to matt. matt: thanks. thanks to the heritage foundation for having all of us. i also wanted to thank mark for his address, which i also thought was really interesting. we all came to know -- except jaffer, i guess, all of us came to know him since he became a lawyer. we've heard stories from mark and his partners and other people who appeared with and against and around the judge when he was a lawyer and civil practice. we understood that he was a pretty remarkable lawyer. but it was a part of his life that we didn't get to see. so it's nice to hear about. i guess i'll reversehe order in which jane took this. i want to say something personal about the judge, then maybe say something a little bit about his cases and his approach to the law.
it's funny how we all came to clerk for him. i came to clerk for him because i had an interview with a different federal judge on a wednesday. this judge is famously very rigorous about interviews. all-day process about talking to his law clerks and him about everything i knew, which wasn't very much as a second-year law student. then i flew from that interview to denver. to meet someone who i confess i didn't really know very much about except that his name was neil gorsuch and he was a judge and that professor of mine who was sort of my mentor in law school, her name is joan larson, a terrific judge herself now, was friends with neil gorsuch and said, he's new and he's great and you need to go clerk for him.
i show up in denver and we have -- you talk to his clerks and sit down with the judge. in 30 minutes he managed, while being entirely kind of gentlemanly and polite, to poke at three or four questions about my writing sample and classes that were real questions, that got to the point. but meanwhile, to learn what i was planning to do over the weekend while i was there, was i planning to go hiking, where was i going? would i like to stop by his cabin because all the law clerks were going to be there on a hike and make sure i got somebody's phone number to make sure i did that. he was from the beginning from the first minute before he even offered me a job, the most welcoming person in the world, about being in colorado and being around him and his -- the sort of extended family that became all of his law clerks. it feels like an age ago. to look back on it, knowing that he's now the nominee of the president to be on the supreme court is something special for me.
and all of us, i think, who clerk for him. particularly those of us who clerked a long time ago. i'll also echo say that jane said. as a human being, he's tremendously honorable and kind to the people that know him. i can attest that when -- i remember -- i think everyone has rough days. on a particularly rough day in my life, i got a call from the judge who had sort of heard about it and he made -- all i can say about it is he made it his business to make sure that whatever was going on was going to be put right and he was going to do that himself. which he did. it meant a lot to me. in particular because i had the privilege to clerk for justice scalia, whose seat this is. it is really meaningful to me to know that the person who's going to take justice scalia's seat on the court is not just a conservative in his tradition, but is also a good man.
i do want to say something quickly about his jurisprudence thoughtoo. he's been compared in t last few months to justice scalia in lots of ways. maybe not in what you might call the vociferousness of his defense. i don't think you can look forward to quite the same kind of biting dissent from neil gorsuch as we used to enjoy reading from justice scalia. what i do think you can expect is a similar approach to the law. textualism when it comes to constitutes, and originalism, history and rigorous attention to the law when it comes to the constitution. if anyone remembers when they were in, like, grade school or high school, having to diagram sentences. there is a published opinion of the judge explaining the meaning of a federal statute by putting a sentence diagram in the opinion. it makes it very clear.
you want to know which word does this phrase modify? i'll show you. it illustrates a really deep commitment to the things that, for me, it's important to say justice scalia kind of taught us all. after he died, everyone took a moment to notice how much justice scalia had changed the way lawyers and judges talk and think about the law. and one way you know that is that nearly 30 years after justice scalia became a justice, the person who is nominated to take his seat is a person who diagrammed a sentence. in a judicial opinion, rather than leafing through the legislative history. i was going to say something about a constitutional case, but maybe in keeping with the theme of mark's speech, i have something to say about the judge's attitude toward civil litigation. he was a trial lawyer. and he understood that part of his job as a court of appeals judge was to ensure that trial
litigation is efficient and fair. and so years after i clerked there, i got -- he sends out his opinions, to his law clerks occasionally and we pretend that we read them all. we read some of them. i remember reading one that was -- it was a published opinion of the 10th circuit. if anyone is watching who is a lawyer will know what this means. about a discovery dispute. what had happened is a trial judge had sanctioned a party for not producing a document that they were supposed to produce on time. and then they were told to do it a second time and they still didn't do it the trial judge
lost their temper a little bit and dismissed the case. maybe in the course of dismissing the case the judge didn't like recite all the things that you're supposed to recite and consider all the factors you normally are supposed to consider, but the conduct of the party was really outrageous. and i understand district judges are thankful for this and discovery is not a shell game. you cannot have a prolonged litigation that costs time and money. if a judge decides that he is going to bring a lawsuit and not comply, that is fine. if you have ever handled litigation, they say to find a case where somebody does something terrible and a judge comes down on them. those things are hard to find. they like to write about constitutional law and the fourth amendment. and religious freedom and all the things we all like to talk the judge understood
part of his job is conducted as efficiently and as fairly as he can. i know that he knows how the system operates and people will go with that. >> we have time for questions. we have ground rules. please wait for a microphone it and identify yourself. makesk a question, do not a speech. any takers? over here. >> i knew the judge in private practice and d think that he would join justice alito with his petitions there? or be part of the whole.
there are several petitions pending that will be before him when he is confirmed, especially in criminal law. what dolike to know, you think about that. and what is his view on criminal law jurisprudence? >> i can take a shot at that. i know that most of the justices, other than justice alito, pool their law clerks and to help review cases. and having written these polar notes, it is a tedious part of every law clerks week. justice alito likes to review petitions under his own standard. but that was not true the first
year he was in. i remembered he was in the cert pool for a while and he got his feet under him and decided what he wanted to do. i do not know if he had a particular plan. i am sure we will find out. i would not be surprised if you can change her mind about that overtime. -- if you could change your mind about that over time. on criminal law that jurisprudence, i think there are a number of cases where, if the losses the defendant gets to win, the defendant gets to win and that is the end of it. there are certain cases where the judge has taken a pretty rigorous textual approach and that reflects the approach that scalia had. >> justice jackson was the
attorney before he was nominated to the bench. he took on the role of judge very seriously. he was an advocate and he switched to being a neutral decision-maker. judge gorsuch is very similar. having been a senior official of the justice department does not come with baggage. he looks at the law for what it is and decides on that, he has spoken a bit about over criminalization in talked about the challenges over theinalization presents for judicial system and for parties who are trying to govern their own conduct. >> if i can add something, if he took something from his service at the department, he has enormous respect for the department of justice and expectations of their behavior
and the quality of their advocacy and briefing. and he could be known to get a little hot under the collar, if the government appeared to be cutting corners in a criminal case. >> a lot of folks have talked about his writing style and how clear it is. part of that is in the line of justice jackson, there is an understanding with the law requires and this overcriminalization point. likewise, what is required of them. >> ok. thank you for this wonderful panel. star parker. these center for urban renewal and education and syndicated columnist with "creators." you mentioned several times now that he looks to existing law.
existing, all law leading up to the law, interpreting constitutional law, what do you mean when you say, what worldview, when you say "he looks to the law?" >> in any given case, you have a law that tested at the time and the law will be to the case before and he is not a politician in a robe. that is a really important thing. today i think in our country and this is true on the conservative and the liberal side of the spectrum, only do not get the outcome we want, we go to the courts and we want them to fix the law. because i did not get what i wanted out of these political process. this is true on both sides of the aisle. i think judge gorsuch view of the judiciary and is that is not
the job of judges. that is the political process. if you have a problem with the law, you can vote the official out of office. you don't go running to the court to have the courts of the problem for you. now, when you have a case before the courts, the judges look with no bias or predisposed notion or importation of their own personal policy. it does not matter what the judge thinks the right answer should be. the question is, "what is the right answer under the law?" that is what makes gorsuch a judge's judge. i think that is the kind of judge neil gorsuch is and it if he is like enough to be
confirmed to the supreme court, that is the kind of justice he would be. >> everybody is familiar with the friendship of ginsburg and scalia. particularly for those of you who clerked for supreme court justices. do you see any of them becoming fast friends? >> the judge is known as being a friend with everybody on the 10th circuit and he is a warm and personable guy. i can't think of any particular justice, but i think he would make fast friends with all of them. >> he clerked for justice kennedy. i'sure it would be a special thing for those two to sit on the same court together.
as you can all tell or no, being a law clerk isn't it important relationship. i am sure they would look forward to that. >> we have time for one more question. if not, join me in thanking the panel. [applause] announcer: ahead of tomorrow's supreme court nomination for neil gorsuch, here supreme court justice sonia sotomayor talking about her experiences with the senate nomination process and confirmation hearings. justice sotomayor: within a couple of months, interestingly enough, of my actual hearing