Long before the people of Colorado got to know Neil Gorsuch as a judge of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, and long before the rest of the country got to know him as President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, I worked 20 feet away from him as his assistant in private practice at Kellogg Huber from 1998 to 2005.
Over the past two months, judges, law professors, Supreme Court advocates, and law clerks with glittering resumes have all come forward to offer their thoughts on what kind of lawyer and judge Neil Gorsuch is. I would like to share my personal story on what kind of boss, mentor, and human being he is.
How I Met Judge Gorsuch
I am a working mother with a one-year-old daughter, a lifelong liberal Democrat, and have a very different perspective on the world from Judge Gorsuch. And frankly, I am a fairly ordinary person, at least as measured against many of the people I worked with at the firm.
Judge Gorsuch took a risk in hiring me. I had no legal experience at all and expected to be doing routine secretarial tasks. But as time progressed, he came to trust my judgment, sought out my opinion, and pulled me in on some outside projects. For example, he asked me to provide editorial assistance in publishing his dissertation as a book and even incorporated some of the suggestions I made along the way. Over the seven years of working for him, he showed confidence in my abilities and always gave me the opportunity to learn, whether it was from my mistakes or his guidance.
Judge Gorsuch Isn’t Just A Mentor—He’s A Friend
Judge Gorsuch also proved to be an incredibly supportive mentor. When our law firm offered free tuition for three of its staffers to attend law school, I was surprised to see my name on the list. I didn’t expect this at all, and knowing that my path led elsewhere, I declined the very generous offer, but was grateful beyond measure. With his encouragement, I went on to complete a Master’s Degree from American University in International Politics instead. Over coffee years later Judge Gorsuch brought up the topic of law school but never hounded me about it. Instead, he listened.
We kept in touch after he left the firm for the Department of Justice and were on hand for each other’s big life events. I attended his Tenth Circuit Investiture in 2006, where I asked him if he would be willing to officiate my wedding someday. Almost a decade later, he kept his promise and performed my April 2015 wedding, the happiest day of my life. And to my great surprise, on January 31, I received a call inviting me to the White House to attend the announcement of his nomination to the Supreme Court.
But it is some of the more ordinary moments since our time at the law firm that really stick with me. From 2010 to 2012, I owned a small pet supply store in Washington, D.C. Judge Gorsuch was in town for a conference, and stopped by to say hello, which happened to coincide with my weekly inventory delivery. There were hundreds of pounds of pet products on the curb to be unloaded and re-stocked. Judge Gorsuch didn’t even pause. He donned a store apron and started hauling 30-pound bags of dog food and boxes of cat litter off the pallets and onto my store shelves. We had a good laugh after I offered to hire him, in case he needed a change of career.
How A Public Figure’s Character Shines Through
You can always tell a lot about a public figure by how they treat people lower down on the pecking order when others are not watching. It is easy to appear friendly and kind when you’re in the spotlight (or under a magnifying glass) and are dealing with peers or people higher up the food chain.
But in Judge Gorsuch’s case, he respected my viewpoint, treated me like a peer when he didn’t have to, and stuck his neck out for me time and time again when he stood nothing to gain.
I know that, should he be confirmed, I will not agree with all his rulings, nor will I be shy about expressing that disagreement. But I do know that his conclusions are reached after much thought, having observed the care he took in his work when I sat across the hall from him, many years ago. And I know that, should he be confirmed, Americans will gain a Supreme Court Justice who knows that his decisions have far-reaching consequences, and will quietly carry the responsibility.