Questions arise about Neil Gorsuch's volunteer claims while at Harvard Law School

Not many people remember the SCOTUS nominee's time working poor and incarcerated clients

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published February 6, 2017 5:46PM (EST)

 (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court, is facing questions about his claim that he volunteered at Harvard Law School programs designed to help poor and incarcerated clients.

"While in law school, he demonstrated a commitment to helping the less fortunate," President Trump declared when announcing Gorsuch's nomination on Tuesday. "He worked in both Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Projects and Harvard Defenders Program."

Yet for "roughly three dozen students who participated in the two programs while Mr. Gorsuch was at Harvard Law School from 1988 to 1991," they have no memory of Gorsuch ever being involved, according to an article by The Wall Street Journal.

When the Journal asked the White House about this, they were referred to New York County prosecutor Chris Edel, who claimed that Gorsuch attended training with him for the Defenders at some point in the early 1990s.

"What I am prepared to do is corroborate that Neil Gorsuch was in the Harvard Defenders," Edel told the Journal. "I have a specific recollection of talking to him about one case, but I don’t want to go into the details . . . I’d like to leave it there."

Unlike Edel, two individuals who oversaw the students in these programs did not remember Gorsuch ever being there, while a third declined to say and a fourth is now deceased. They were joined by more than thirty other students who were involved in these programs and said they did not remember ever seeing Gorsuch present.

"If he was active in PLAP I am sure I would remember him," New York City tax lawyer Elizabeth Buckley Lewis, who attended Harvard with Gorsuch and referred to the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project as her "most meaningful experience" at Harvard, told the Journal.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Donald Trump Harvard Law School Neil Gorsuch Supreme Court