Neil Gorsuch on Email Slamming Guantanamo Bay Lawyers: ‘Not My Finest Moment’

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In a rare moment of public regret, Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch said an email he sent criticizing lawyers representing Guantanamo Bay detainees was “not my finest moment.”

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, who has engaged Gorsuch in some of the toughest back-and-forth of the confirmation hearings, brought up the email during the third round of questions and the ninth hour of the hearing on Wednesday. Gorsuch sent an email in 2006 while he worked at the Justice Department which had a subject line, “Elite law firm pro bono work for terrorists,” and contained a link to an article about conservatives criticizing lawyers representing Guantanamo Bay detainees. “I thought you might find this of interest,” Gorsuch wrote in the message. “It seems odd to me more hasn’t been made of this.”

“[The] principle that you don’t identify the lawyer with the particular view of the client or the views that the lawyer advances on behalf of a client is critical to the fair administration of justice,” Durbin said, citing now-Chief Justice John Roberts’ response to a question on the topic during his hearings. “Would you put in perspective any comments that you made about people representing Guantanamo detainees?”

“I have nothing but admiration for those lawyers,” Gorsuch responded. “The email you are referring to is not my finest moment blowing off steam with a friend privately. The truth is, I think my career is better than that. When I have seen individuals who have needed representation, as a judge when I have gotten handwritten pro se filing, [when] I have seen something that might have merit in it, I picked up the phone and have gotten a lawyer for that person… I would like to think that my career taken as a whole, Senator, represents my values appropriately.”


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