Word is starting to build that Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch may have lied about his commitment to "helping the less fortunate" while at Harvard. About three dozen students who participated in the Prison Legal Assistance Project (PLAP) and Harvard Defenders while Gorsuch was at Harvard Law School from 1988 to 1991 said they have no recollection of his involvement.
“If he was active in PLAP, I am sure I would remember him,” said Elizabeth Buckley Lewis, who attended Harvard at the same time as Gorsuch.
The Wall Street Journal was given the name of one Harvard Law School graduate who could allegedly corroborate Gorsuch's involvement with the Defenders, but that person declined to give any details of the judge’s participation.
Two people who broadly oversaw the Harvard students during the Judge's period there said they had no memory of Gorsuch’s involvement, and a third one declined to say anything on the matter. Other Harvard classmates and friends of Gorsuch say they have no recollection of him discussing either program.
According to the White House, Gorsuch said he participated in PLAP his first year of law school and the Defenders during the latter part of his time there. The White House referred The Wall Street Journal to Chris Edel, a New York County prosecutor who was Gorsuch's roommate and was a member of a social club with him.
“What I am prepared to do is corroborate that Neil Gorsuch was in the Harvard Defenders,” said Edel. “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.”
Edel recalled one other classmate in the program-- David E. Nahmias, now a Georgia Supreme Court justice. Nahmias said he didn’t remember whether Gorsuch was involved in the Defenders.
Gorsuch didn’t appear in any of the yearbook photos for either of the groups during his three years at Harvard, nor was he listed among other students as “not pictured.” John Salsberg, who served as a supervising attorney for the Harvard Defenders since the early 1980s, has said he can't answer the question of whether he remembered Judge Gorsuch or not.
Lisa Dealy, Harvard’s assistant dean for clinical and pro bono programs, and Boston criminal defense lawyer John “Jack” Cunha, who worked as a supervising attorney of the Defenders from 1985 to 1995, both said they also had no recollection of Gorsuch’s involvement in either program.
When asked about Judge Gorsuch's involvement in the Defenders, Sarah Reed, an active member of the club and student president in 1991, replied, "Neil who?"
Stephen Weisbrod, a Washington, Dc trial lawyer was a participant in PLAP while he was at Harvard and confirmed that he and Gorsuch sat next to each other in one class and were friendly. Weisbrod, however, cannot recall his classmate participating in PLAP.
The Wall Street Journal seems to have beaten the bushes quite thoroughly-- and if there was any truth to Gorsuch's claims of his philanthropic efforts at Harvard, you would think there would be much more evidence of it. Gorsuch has so far refused to respond to questions on the matter.