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He grew up in a high profile Republican family and became infamous in Columbia University’s liberal circles for penning fierce attacks on campus protesters. On the bench, he has subscribed to the same judicial philosophy as the late Antonin Scalia, a conservative icon whom Gorsuch would replace on the court. And Gorsuch’s recent rulings including a major decision finding that companies could deny employees government mandated contraceptive coverage on religious grounds have won him plaudits from the right.
But Gorsuch has also established deep and enduring relationships with liberals he has known since his school days in some cases the very targets of his pointed attacks. He has won endorsements from gay friends and hired law clerks from the opposite end of the political spectrum. He has argued that the court system shortchanges low income people and called for making legal services cheaper and courts more accessible. Even the simple writing style of his opinions, which have won wide attention in legal circles, reflects his conviction that the law should be understandable to everyone, lest it favor only the wealthy and well educated.
One issue in particular became a kind of laboratory for his conservative explorations: the sanctity of life and how to define it. At the time, Michigan doctor Jack Kevorkian was making national headlines by championing the right to die for terminal patients through physician assisted suicide. This and similar controversies made a deep impression on Gorsuch. He was eager to debate assisted suicide with fellow law students at Harvard,
and it became the subject of his PhD thesis after he won a Marshall Scholarship to Oxford.
Gorsuch clerked with Supreme Court Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy. With his impressive credentials, Gorsuch decided against the predictable route of joining a prestigious law firm and instead opted for the excitement of a legal start up. He signed on with the boutique Washington firm of Kellogg, Huber, Hansen Todd. The two year old firm was so new and small that a year earlier, when a client had requested a meeting at their offices, one of the partners ran out to buy furniture, returning with a mismatched dining set to serve as the conference table.