Former Law Student Refutes Negative Story on Gorsuch Classroom Comments

Neil Gorsuch
Neil Gorsuch / AP
• March 20, 2017 12:43 pm


A former law school student of Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, spoke out Sunday to contest the story of another former student, who suggested Gorsuch made controversial comments about women during one of his classes.

NPR first reported early Monday that a former student of Gorsuch at the University of Colorado Law School wrote a letter Friday to the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee–Sens. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) and Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.), respectively–to share comments from the judge that she found offensive.

Jennifer Sisk alleged that Gorsuch said in class last April that women often "manipulate" maternity leave to extract benefits from companies and argued firms should ask female applicants about their plans to have children during the interview process.

"Judge Gorsuch told the class that not only could a future employer ask female interviewees about their pregnancy and family plans, companies must ask females about their family and pregnancy plans to protect the company," Sisk wrote.

On Sunday, another former student of Gorsuch penned a separate letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, disputing Sisk's characterization of what happened.

"I, too, was a student in that course, and I am strongly compelled to refute the letter's veracity," J.D. candidate Will Hauptman wrote. "Although Judge Gorsuch did discuss some of the topics mentioned in the letter, he did not do so in the manner described."

Hauptman said that Gorsuch brought up the topic as a hypothetical to challenge the class about the realities of being a lawyer, and was not representing his own views.

"The judge was very matter-of-fact in that we would face difficult decisions; he himself recalled working late nights when he had a young child with whom he wished to share more time," the letter read. "The seriousness with which the judge asked us to consider these realities reflected his desire to make us aware of them, not any animus against a career or group."

"It is clear that my classmate and I have a different account of what happened in class," Hauptman wrote. "But had Judge Gorsuch truly made the statements described in the letter, I would remember—the statements would have greatly upset me. And I would not be writing you in support of the judge if I felt he would not treat all people with equal dignity."

Another former Gorsuch student came forward calling Sisk's version of events "hard to believe." Catherine Holtgrewe, who also took the same ethics course, released a statement praising the judge as an "exemplary professor."

"I have never heard Judge Gorsuch ever speak disrespectfully to or about anyone," Holtgrewe said. "The supposed remarks he made in his 2016 Legal Ethics class are completely out of character and I find very hard to believe are accurately relayed."

Sisk, a former aide to Sen. Mark Udall (D., Colo.) and special assistant at the Department of the Interior during the Obama administration, said she reported Gorsuch's comments to the law school administration, including assistant dean Whiting Leary and former dean Phil Weiser. Leary did not respond to a request for comment to confirm Sisk's account. Weiser declined comment, directing the Washington Free Beacon to a university spokesman, who also declined to comment.

NPR noted that 11 female former law clerks for Gorsuch have submitted a letter to the Judiciary Committee in support of the judge's nomination.

Update 1:50 p.m.: This post has been updated to reflect a letter from Catherine Holtgrewe.

Published under: Neil Gorsuch, NPR