Neil Gorsuch Biography

(1967–)
Neil Gorsuch served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit before his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Donald Trump.

Synopsis

Born in Colorado in 1967, Neil Gorsuch was the first child of Anne Gorsuch, who ran the EPA in the early 1980s. A conservative voice at Columbia University and Harvard Law School, he went on to success at a Washington, D.C., law firm before briefly working at the U.S. Department of Justice. Named to the the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in 2006, Gorsuch established himself as an originalist and supporter of religious freedom in his opinions. In January 2017, he was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Donald Trump.

Early Years and Schools

Neil McGill Gorsuch was born on August 29, 1967, in Denver, Colorado. The oldest child of two lawyers, he was a studious child who also enjoyed outdoor activities.

Gorsuch began spending more time in Washington, D.C., after his mother, Anne, became the first woman to run the Environmental Protection Agency, in 1981. However, she resigned under pressure 22 months into the job after refusing to turn over subpoenaed documents. Around that time she also divorced her husband, David.

Despite the turmoil of his home life, Gorsuch adapted well to Georgetown Preparatory School in Maryland, where he was voted class president as a senior. At Columbia University, he displayed his conservative views as a writer for the Columbia Daily Spectator and co-founder of The Federalist Paper. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1988.

Gorsuch then attended Harvard Law School, where he was classmates with Barack Obama, earning his J.D. in 1991.

Early Legal Career

Neil Gorsuch began his legal career as a clerk for Judge David B. Sentelle of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He then spent another year of clerkship with two Supreme Court justices, Anthony M. Kennedy and the retired Byron R. White.

In 1995, Gorsuch joined the D.C. law firm of Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel. Specializing in complex litigation across a wide range of fields, including antitrust, telecommunications and securities fraud, he rose to the rank of partner in 1998.

In 2004, Gorsuch completed his education with a doctorate in legal philosophy from Oxford University. He then joined the U.S. Department of Justice in 2005 as principal deputy to the associate attorney general, helping to oversee areas related to constitutional law, civil rights and environmental regulation.

U.S. Court of Appeals

In July 2006, the 39-year-old Gorsuch was confirmed without opposition to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, in Denver. That year he also published a book, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, in which he argued against the legality of the practice.

In subsequent years, Gorsuch established himself as an originalist and a textualist, adhering to a belief in the intent of the founders of the U.S. Constitution. He showed a propensity to support religious freedom, notably ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby in 2013 during the craft store's fight against the mandated contraception coverage of the Affordable Care Act.

Gorsuch also made known his opposition to the power given to federal regulators over courts, invoking the controversial 1984 ruling that set the legal precedent in that matter during a 2016 immigration case.

U.S. Supreme Court Nominee

On January 31, 2017, Neil Gorsuch was nominated by President Donald Trump to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016.

For some, Gorsuch was a logical choice to replace the deceased justice. Like Scalia, he was known as a strict originalist and a colorful writer. Additionally, on a court consisting of five Catholic and three Jewish justices, all from the East Coast, it was believed he offered a different perspective as a Protestant from a Western state.

However, coming on the heels of a year-long stalemate, in which Senate Republicans had refused to allow a hearing for Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, Gorsuch was expected to face a bruising battle for his confirmation.

Setting the table for the showdown, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said, "The burden is on Judge Neil Gorsuch to prove himself to be within the legal mainstream and, in this new era, willing to vigorously defend the Constitution from abuses of the executive branch and protect the constitutionally enshrined rights of all Americans."

A week after Gorsuch’s nomination, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut disclosed that Gorsuch had said in a meeting with him that President Trump’s negative remarks about the judiciary were “disheartening” and “demoralizing.” Blumenthal said Gorsuch made the comments in reference to President Trump's criticism of Judge James Robart, who blocked the administration’s controversial travel ban on refugees and citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The president called Robart  a “so-called judge” on Twitter and tweeted: "Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!"  

Personal

Neil Gorsuch lives in a mountain-view community in Boulder County, Colorado, with his wife, Louise, and two daughters. There he raises farm animals and indulges his love for the outdoors by fishing, hunting and skiing.

Gorsuch has also been involved in his local legal community, and has taught ethics and antitrust law as a Thomson Visiting Professor at the University of Colorado Law School.

(Photo: United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit/Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

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