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Gorsuch Says It’s Just Fine to Be Forgotten Someday

Sept. 5, 2019, 8:54 AM

If history doesn’t remember Justice Neil Gorsuch, that’d be just fine by him.

“We’ll all be forgotten soon enough,” the justice quotes his former boss and Supreme Court predecessor Justice Byron “Whizzer” White in his upcoming memoir, “A Republic, If You Can Keep It.”

And that’s “exactly as it should be,” Gorsuch says in an exclusive excerpt obtained by Bloomberg Law.

Gorsuch got to thinking about those values watching tourists looking up at White’s portrait at the Supreme Court who likely didn’t know about his legendary career as a football player in the 1930s and 40s and then as a high court justice nominated by John F. Kennedy.

“Joy in life comes from something greater than satisfying our own needs and wants,” he writes. And that “something greater” for him is serving the country.

“At the end of it all, the most any of us who believe in its cause can hope for is that we have done, each in our own small ways, what we could in its service,” Gorsuch writes.

Portrait of Justice Byron White

Humble Service

For President Donald Trump’s first Supreme Court appointee, that service is “a humble and modest one,” said David Feder, a former Gorsuch clerk who co-authored the upcoming book with the justice and Janie Nitze, another former clerk now at the National Security Institute at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School.

“Gorsuch has great respect for those judges and public officials that work quietly in their chambers and offices, doing what they can in service to their country, without seeking fame or being afraid of disapproval,” Nitze said.

“I think he’d be most happy if at the end of his career people looked back at his body of work and could say fairly that he didn’t favor this type of individual or that type of group, but ruled according to the law in each case,” Nitze said.

Gorsuch has served only two full terms so his high court legacy is in its infancy. But he’s begun to craft a reputation as an originalist with an independent streak.

He’s been a reliable conservative vote on presidential powers, issues important to business, and reining in administrative agencies. But he’s crossed the aisle on a few criminal cases and on American Indian rights.

Prolific Group

With his third book, Gorsuch joins several past and present colleagues as authors. Supreme Court justices throughout history have written hundreds of books on legal theories and court procedure.

Gorsuch’s first book, “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” was based on his doctoral thesis. His second, “The Law of Judicial Precedent,” was a treatise written with other federal judges, including now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Neither were best sellers.

Relatively few Supreme Court justices throughout history, however, have written memoirs.

The current court, however, is an exception. Justices Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Sonia Sotomayor all released books detailing their paths to the Supreme Court.

Gorsuch’s memoir will look at his 30-year legal career, as well as his rocky confirmation process in which he succeeded the late Antonin Scalia on a party line vote in the sharply divided Senate.

The quiet pursuit of a life in service contrasts with the public spotlight recently on the Supreme Court with the highly contested nominations of Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, and politically charged rhetoric swirling around the court.

Still, Gorsuch’s modest approach already seems to be impacting those who worked for him. Feder and Nitze note the historic moments that come with being a Supreme Court clerk, but say more pedestrian snapshots in time are most memorable.

For Feder, who’s now an associate at Jones Day, it was a baseball game and spending Christmas with Gorsuch’s family. For Nitze, it was babysitting.

A “close family member of mine got quite sick while I was working on the book with the Justice,” Nitze recalled.

“I nervously told him that I had to take some time off—indefinitely—from my work.”

Gorsuch’s reply was to take as long as she needed. But “more importantly, that he and his wife wanted to help however they could—and then he offered to babysit my kids,” Nitze said.

Nitze declined. Her kids “were one and three at the time and little nightmares,” she said.

But the “fact that he would offer his time to help my family was incredibly meaningful to me,” she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson in Washington at krobinson@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com

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