Judge Neil Gorsuch faced questions from Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) about a recent allegation by a student in a class he taught that he “specifically targeted females and maternity leave” in a question he asked his students.
“Did you ask your students in class that day to raise their hands if they knew of a woman who had taken maternity benefits from a company and then left the company after having a baby?” Durbin asked.
“No,” Gorsuch replied.
He explained that he was teaching from a textbook that raised questions about this subject and asked for a “show of hands” — though not on the question Durbin mentioned. Instead, said Gorsuch, he was asking about a hypothetical situation in which an older female partner at a law firm asks a potential employee if she intends to become pregnant soon.
“How many of you have had questions like this asked of you in the employment environment?” Gorsuch said he asked the class. “An inappropriate question about your family planning. And I am shocked every year, senator, how many young women raise their hand.”
Democrats say they will also ask Gorsuch to explain comments he made while teaching a class on ethics and professionalism at the University of Colorado School of Law last April. In a letter sent to committee Democrats, one of his former students, Jennifer Sisk, claimed that during a conversation about work-life balance in the legal profession, Gorsuch asked students if they knew of women who had “used a company to get maternity benefits and then left right after having a baby.”
“Judge Gorsuch focused on women having babies, not men expanding their families,” Sisk wrote.
White House officials assisting Gorsuch with his nomination denied the accusation and noted that he earned the highest possible score from students on evaluation questions of “instructor respect and professional treatment.”
In a letter provided by committee Republicans, another student, Will Hauptman, rebutted Sisk’s claims, saying that while Gorsuch “did discuss some of the topics mentioned in the letter, he did not do so in the manner described. The judge frequently asked us to consider the various challenges we would face as new attorneys.”
Fox News posted video of the exchange over his former student’s allegation. It came during a tense back-and-forth between Durbin and Gorsuch that involved questions of race and controversial comments made by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) as well as Gorsuch’s former dissertation supervisor at Oxford.