Neil Gorsuch, named Tuesday as President Donald Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, has a solidly conservative pedigree that has earned him comparison to the combative justice he would replace, Antonin Scalia.
Gorsuch clerked for two Supreme Court justices and worked in President George W. Bush’s Justice Department before being appointed to the federal bench and authoring a series of sharply written, conservative opinions. His mother, Anne, ran President Ronald Reagan’s Environmental Protection Agency.
But Gorsuch has also won praise among liberals and others in the Colorado legal community for his fair-mindedness and defense of the underdog.
“He is a very, very smart man. His leanings are very conservative, but he’s qualified to be on the Supreme Court,” said Denver plaintiff’s attorney David Lane. “I don’t know that Judge Gorsuch has a political agenda and he is sincere and honest and believes what he writes.”
A judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Gorsuch lives in the hyper-liberal college town of Boulder and teaches at the University of Colorado’s law school there, also a progressive bastion.
“I think this should be Merrick Garland’s seat,” said Jordan Henry, one of Gorsuch’s students there and a self-described liberal, referring to President Obama’s nominee for the vacancy last year who was never considered by the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate. But she described Gorsuch as an eager mentor, always solicitous of students’ opinions and with a brilliant mind.
“He’s dedicated to the pursuit of truth in the justice system,” said Henry, 29. “I do take some comfort that he can be a Trump choice.”
Gorsuch is a Colorado native who earned his bachelor’s degree from Columbia University in three years, then earned a law degree from Harvard. He clerked for Supreme Court Justices Byron White, a fellow Coloradan, and Anthony Kennedy before earning a philosophy degree at Oxford University and working for a prominent Washington, D.C., law firm.
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