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Politics & Government

Judge Harris Hartz Praises Neil Gorsuch As 'A Fair-Minded Person'


Now to New Mexico, part of the western U.S. covered by the court of appeals for the 10th Circuit. Harris Hartz is a 10th Circuit judge in Albuquerque. He's worked with Neil Gorsuch for more than a decade and counts Gorsuch as a friend. Speaking to us from his chambers, Judge Hartz praised his colleague for his patience.

HARRIS HARTZ: Some judges are impatient and cut the advocates off, things like that. That's not his style. His conduct on the bench reflects very well on the whole court. We could all aspire to handle questioning as well as he does.

CORNISH: Can you talk a little bit about how he's changed the court? Is he someone that is - come to shape those around him in terms of kind of philosophy, or is he kind of more inward?

HARTZ: In terms of changing philosophies, I don't know that he's changed anyone's philosophy on the court. But we deal with individual cases, and he can be very influential while he's asking questions in a case. I know I've sat with him where his questions have made me see something a little differently, but he's also a very good listener.

He listens to the advocates, and he responds to points made by his colleagues on the court. So I would say he's simply quite collegial.

CORNISH: And\ similarly, how does that work with people perhaps on difference end of the ideological spectrum? How does he work through disagreements with colleagues on the bench?

HARTZ: I'll give an example of how well he treats (laughter) those who disagree with him. One federal district judge told me a couple of years ago that he feels better after being reversed in an opinion written by Judge Gorsuch than he often feels when he's affirmed by the panel. He just speaks respectfully.

CORNISH: What do you want people to know or understand about Judge Gorsuch?

HARTZ: I think he's a very fair-minded person. He's very smart. He works hard. He listens to people. I haven't seen evidence that he has a particular agenda. I don't think I can always predict where he's going to come out in a case, and he's just a wonderful colleague. I think everybody on the court will miss him.

I was very excited when he was appointed. And since then, I've gotten some moments of - I won't say depression but sadness that I won't be able to work with him. The week before he was nominated, I sat with him on seven cases that we had oral arguments on. And in those cases, he changed his mind after hearing from other members of the panel, and he changed the minds of other members of the panel himself.

I was watching tennis last night as I was getting ready for bed and not thinking about the court or Judge Gorsuch at all, and it occurred to me that he's really the Roger Federer of the judiciary. He gets it right. I don't always agree with him, but he's very good. He makes it look easy, but I know how hard he works.

He'll get along with everyone on the Supreme Court. And they'll listen to him, and he'll listen to them. And I'm not sure how he's going to come out in particular issues, but he's really meant to be an appellate judge. And I think he's shown that in the more than 10 years I worked with him.

CORNISH: Judge Harris Hartz, thank you so much for sharing your recollections with us.

HARTZ: Well, you're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.