Politico published a story Tuesday including the claim that Justice Neil Gorsuch made an error by not disclosing who purchased a property he partially owned; however, the story quickly attracted criticism after legal experts and commentators argued that Politico misrepresented key elements of Gorsuch’s financial disclosures.
In April 2017, Greenberg Traurig law firm CEO Brian Duffy purchased a property owned by Walden Group, LLC, a group formed by Gorsuch and two others in which Gorsuch held a 20% stake, according to Politico; Greenberg Traurig later had business before the Supreme Court following Gorsuch’s appointment. Gorsuch disclosed in his 2017 financial disclosures that he had sold “Walden Group, LLC” on December 31, 2017, but did not list the identity of the buyer, a point which Politico repeatedly stressed, citing ethics expert and former Obama administration official Kedric Payne to suggest that Gorsuch should have reported the purchaser’s identity.
The piece rapidly drew backlash, with critics castigating it as unfair and biased.
“[The Politico reporter] failed to mention that her so-called nonpartisan source was actually a senior Obama administration political appointee,” Mike Davis, founder and president of the Article III Project and former Gorsuch law clerk, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Neither [the reporter] nor her Obama political appointee source cited any statute or other legal requirements before reporting their incorrect legal take.”
Stephen Gillers, New York University professor, told The New York Times that Gorsuch was under no legal obligation to report the buyer of the property.
So, being a lawyer, I went back and Read the Rule and also looked at the actual form. I'm a bit puzzled by the reporting here, or would be except it's Politico.
Let's begin with the form. https://t.co/WsJ7o9XPy8
— (((Not That Crown, Maybe))) (@CrownMaybe) April 25, 2023
“This is just another garbage hit job,” Garrett Ventry, former Senate Judiciary Committee aide, told the DCNF. “Justice Gorsuch disclosed the amount of sale on his 2017 Financial Disclosure, never met or had any relationship with the purchaser (who even confirmed that for Politico), and the purchaser is a Democrat donor who has maxed out to Clinton and Gillibrand,” he added, referencing Duffy’s donations.
Moreover, following a thread by lawyer Thomas Crown, legal experts were quick to argue that Politico likely confused the sale of the property with the disposition of Gorsuch’s stake in Walden Group, LLC, which would mean there was no counterparty in the transaction that Gorsuch could disclose.
“Politico confuses Walden Group’s sale of property with termination of Gorsuch’s interest in Walden Group. There was no counterparty to report on latter,” Ed Whelan, the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s Antonin Scalia Chair in Constitutional Studies, tweeted.
Case Western Reserve University Law professor Jonathan H. Adler tweeted that Crown’s note that there was no counterparty for Gorsuch to disclose is “a detail that would seem to matter.”
“Politico doesn’t understand how LLCs work and is unfairly smearing Gorsuch with its ignorance—or dishonesty,” tweeted Hamilton Lincoln Law Institute Director of Litigation Ted Frank.
Additionally, no other Supreme Court Justice disclosed the identity of counterparties for transactions in their 2017 financial disclosures, editor for The Federalist David Harsanyi noted after exhuming the other Justices’ disclosures.
As Politico stated, there also did not appear to be any communication between Gorsuch and Duffy regarding the transaction.
Duffy told Politico that he had never met or spoken to the Justice. Though the outlet notes his 600-lawyer firm has had 22 cases before or presented to the Court, he has never personally argued a case before Gorsuch.
Politico did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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