President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee on Tuesday swiftly batted down an accusation made by a former Obama administration staffer that he once told students women manipulate maternity leave.
The allegation, which came to light the day before Judge Neil Gorsuch began his Senate confirmation hearing, was made by a former law student of Gorsuch, Jennifer Sisk, who previously worked for a Democratic senator and the Interior Department during then-President Barack Obama’s tenure.
“Those are not my words and I would never have said them,” Gorsuch told Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
Sisk, a 2016 graduate from the University of Colorado Law School, charged that Gorsuch said employers should ask female interviewees if they plan on having a family and also contended that “’many’ women use their companies for maternity benefits and then leave the company after the baby is born.” Sisk’s allegation was posted as a letter – and soon refuted by another student in the class and disputed by female law clerks who had served under Gorsuch.
Gorsuch told Durbin on Tuesday the accusation stemmed from a discussion about legal ethics that involved hypothetical scenarios, including if a partner at a law firm asks an interviewee if she planned to become pregnant soon.
“We talk about the pros and the cons in a Socratic dialogue that they can think through for themselves how they might answer that very difficult question,” Gorsuch said.
He said he also asked his students to raise their hand if they had experienced such a situation in their own lives, relating the incident to hardships experienced by his mother, former EPA Administrator Anne Buford.
“I knew this stuff happened when my mom was a young practicing lawyer, graduating law school in the 1960s,” Gorsuch said. “… I knew it happened with Justice [Sandra Day] O’Connor. I am shocked it still happens every year that I get women, not men, raising their hand at that question.”