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Nancy Degan Offers Testimony for Confirmation Hearings of Justice Neil Gorsuch

Women's Initiative Newsletter

Nancy Scott Degan, managing shareholder of Baker Donelson's New Orleans office and chair of the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee at the Neil Gorsuch confirmation hearings on March 23, 2017. As spokesperson for the ABA Standing Committee, Ms. Degan testified that Judge Gorsuch had received a rating of "Well Qualified," the highest rating the Committee gives any judicial nominee. Ms. Degan explained the exhaustive evaluation process conducted by all 15 members of the Committee, which resulted in a confidential 900-page report that members of the Standing Committee reviewed before casting their individual votes.

The Committee considers only the integrity, professional competence and judicial temperament of a nominee, and was unanimous in its decision that Justice Gorsuch met the very highest standards in connection with these criteria.

During its nonpartisan peer review process, members of the Standing Committee contacted more than 1,000 lawyers, judges, academics and others, and conducted a myriad of interviews of people who had interacted with Justice Gorsuch when he worked as a law clerk for the Honorable David Sentelle (D.C. Circuit) and for Justices White and Kennedy; as a private practitioner; as Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General of the United States; as an adjunct law professor; and as judge for the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. These interviews included discussions with several sitting Supreme Court justices.

Ms. Degan led the process, and assembled and oversaw a 14-member Practitioners' Reading Group that included Supreme Court advocates and former Supreme Court law clerks, as well as two academic reading groups comprised of 28 professors from the University of Pennsylvania Law School and the Loyola College of Law in New Orleans. These groups undertook an extensive review of Justice Gorsuch's 274 written opinions, again considering only integrity, professional competence and judicial temperament.

Ms. Degan and Standing Committee member Shannon Edwards conducted a personal interview of Justice Gorsuch at Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C., on February 27, and included their insights in the confidential report on which the Standing Committee members based their votes. When asked about Justice Gorsuch, Ms. Degan said, "He was extremely self-deprecating and could quote Socrates without sounding arrogant. He is clearly 'glow in the dark' smart, but very folksy, and is quick to smile; he even showed us pictures of his dog on his smart phone. On the whole, the information we had received from our interviews was very positive, and now I see why. It will be very interesting to see if he maintains his humility and sense of humor on the bench; based on what I've seen, I am confident that his opinions will be well-reasoned and thoroughly researched."

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