In the coming weeks, much will be said and written about Judge Neil Gorsuch – President Donald Trump’s pick for a seat on the Supreme Court of the United States. Reporters and pundits will examine his credentials, his legal philosophy, and the opinions he has written as a judge. Having had the privilege to serve as a law clerk to Judge Gorsuch, I can personally attest to his legal brilliance. But if attention on Judge Gorsuch is focused solely on his jurisprudence, the public will not have a full picture of him, for a complete picture of Judge Gorsuch cannot be painted without a consideration of his character — that he is a principled, hard-working, humble and kind man.
Anyone who works for Judge Gorsuch also quickly comes to see his integrity. Regardless of the issue before him, all arguments are given fair consideration and cases are never politicized. He works tirelessly to not only reach the result that the law compels but to explain his reasoning in a way that the litigants, their lawyers, and the public can clearly understand (and maybe even enjoy reading).
Much can also be learned about Judge Gorsuch from his relationships with his law clerks. Judge Gorsuch is an incredible mentor and devotes a great deal of his time to teaching and advising clerks about law and life. Clerks are also invited to join him in activities outside the office. My personal favorite such activity was regular afternoon runs through and around downtown Denver, complete with a sprint — Judge Gorsuch included — back to the courthouse over the last couple blocks.
While a great amount of ink could be spilled writing about Judge Gorsuch’s character, it was most clearly illustrated to me when I learned that my grandfather, with whom I was very close, had suffered a serious stroke. Before I could even finish telling Judge Gorsuch about this, he pointed at the door and said one word: “Go.” I started to say something about finishing work I needed to complete, but he would have none of it. He explained that this time with my family was too important and that I should head home immediately.
I followed Judge Gorsuch’s direction. That night, I was able to visit with my grandfather one last time before he was no longer able to communicate. When my grandfather was subsequently placed in hospice, I would call back regularly to see if Judge Gorsuch would like me to come back. Each time, I was told to stop worrying about work and asked for a report about how my grandfather and my family was doing. When my grandfather eventually passed away, Judge Gorsuch, despite having no prior relationship with anyone else in my family, had flowers delivered to my grandmother. This was quintessential Judge Gorsuch: kind, caring, selfless, and thoughtful.
Judge Gorsuch’s opinions will rightly be analyzed and discussed in the confirmation process. Regardless of whether one comes to agree with his legal philosophy, it is safe to conclude that every citizen should hope for Supreme Court nominees that are decent, caring, and honorable people. On that score, the country can do no better than Judge Neil Gorsuch.
Jonathan Papik is a partner at Cline Williams Wright Johnson & Oldfather in Omaha, Neb. He clerked for Judge Gorsuch in 2008 and 2009.