Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, was first contacted about a possible nomination to the court on December 2, 2016 – nearly two months before he was actually nominated. That information came over the weekend, when Gorsuch submitted his responses to a questionnaire from the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Gorsuch’s initial conversation about the potential nomination was with Leonard Leo, the executive vice president of the Federalist Society, who advised Trump during the selection process. Over a month later, on January 5, 2017, Gorsuch met with Donald McGahn, currently the White House counsel and then part of the Trump transition team, as well as Vice President Mike Pence, presidential advisor Steve Bannon, Mark Paoletta (now the counsel to the vice president), and White House chief of staff Reince Preibus. Nine days later, Gorsuch met with Trump himself. On January 27, McGahn told Gorsuch that Trump planned to nominate him to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court – which Trump himself confirmed a few days later, in a call on January 30.
Gorsuch’s questionnaire responses contained other interesting facts, including:
- Gorsuch was once a member of the New York, Colorado and District of Columbia bars. “Since becoming a judge,” Gorsuch noted, “I have generally not sought to renew my bar memberships as I no longer provide legal advice.” However, he disclosed, he “unintentionally returned to active status in New York in 2013 by paying the bar’s biennial registration fee.”
- Before 2005, Gorsuch belonged to the Republican National Lawyers’ Association, whose missions include “advancing Republican ideals.” He also “volunteered on various political campaigns, including for President Ronald Reagan, President George H.W. Bush, and President George W. Bush, and participated in groups such as ‘Lawyers for Bush-Cheney.’”
- In September 2010, Gorsuch spoke about the rule of law at the Phil Anschutz Annual Dove Hunt, an event hosted by the Denver billionaire at his 47,000-acre ranch in Colorado. A 2012 article in The New Yorker described Anschutz – who owns a professional hockey team and a portion of a professional basketball team – as a “major donor to the Republican party” who “made his fortune in oil and gas, real estate, railroads, telecommunications, and sports and entertainment.”
- In July 2015, he attended a Renaissance Weekend in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. At the self-described “grand-daddy of ideas festivals,” which was popularized by President Bill Clinton, attendees “address urgent questions of our times and essential issues of human experience.”
- As a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, Gorsuch reported, he and some of his colleagues “became concerned with the quality of representation death row inmates received in their federal habeas proceedings.” That led him to participate “in an effort to increase the quality of capital representation before the Tenth Circuit by attracting new attorneys and training existing ones.”