The Highest Court Intersects with The Highest City
Publisher’s note: This post was originally published on July 9, 2018 on Leadville Today
As the first week in October gets underway in Washington, DC news from the highest court in the land takes center stage as The Supreme Court initiates its 2019 Opening Session. But when you live in Leadville Today, there’s likely a national ripple which will find its way to America’s highest city. It’s The Leadville Connection! And so it is with Justice Neil Gorsuch who was sworn into the Supreme Court in April 2017.
Of course, if the name Gorsuch rings a bell around these parts, it’s generally associated with Gorsuch Ltd, the high-end apparel shop which was founded in Gunnison, but better known in Vail. And while those Gorsuchs also have a Lake County connection – one which provided part of the criteria for accomplished skier David Gorsuch to be inducted into the Leadville/Lake County Sports Hall of Fame, a great story you can read HERE – that’s not this Gorsuch. That notable athlete is actually a distant cousin to Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch.
The Leadville Connection, in fact, has a more direct lineage. And of course, it has to do with mining! Meet Justice Gorsuch’s grandfather: John Elliott Gorsuch, a branch further up the family tree and oftentimes, found further up the mountain in Leadville.
The Supreme Court Justice’s Grandfather was born in Denver in 1899, his parents having moved west from Ohio. He grew up in the Hilltop neighborhood, much like his grandson did. Eventually, John Gorsuch and Fred Kirgis opened the doors of the law firm of Gorsuch & Kirgis which dissolved in 2005.
John Gorsuch quickly gained a reputation for being a keen labor arbitrator, a skill in high demand in a post World War II economy wrought with challenging labor relations. His work on settling disputes that arose during collective bargaining agreements between companies and unions was in high demand and would eventually lead his path to Lake County and the world-renown Climax Mine, located 15 miles north of Leadville.
At this point in history, the transition from underground mining to open-pit operations created a shift in jobs and a labor market that required a talented negotiator to keep the delicate balance between maintaining an active workforce in a rural community and generating profits, all while the country struggled to climb out of The Great Depression.
In an article entitled “Six of the Greatest: John Gorsuch,” which was published in The Colorado Lawyer by Ben S. Aisenberg, an associate at the Gorsuch & Kirgis law firm, and protégé of the esteemed attorney, he reflects on some of the stories told by the senior partner over the years.
“John was equally active in creating a diversity of experience for the young associate lawyers and new partners the firm started to hire in 1945. John’s extensive engagement as a principal arbitrator for Climax Molybdenum required him to travel frequently over Loveland Pass (not through the Eisenhower Tunnel, which had not yet been constructed). It was his custom to invite a new associate to attend a hearing with him. During the winter months, these trips were more hazardous, especially when traveling through areas where avalanches were common. Such excursions were special not only for the scenery but also for the discussions and the prayers of both John and the associate.”
And while daily commuters along Highway 91 can relate to the white-knuckle drive that Winter can have waiting at the top of Fremont Pass, home to the famous Climax Mine, perhaps it’s John Gorsuch’s ability to relate to the “everyday man,” that citizens hope will run strong in his grandson’s representation in Washington as the Court’s 2019 Session gets underway. May Justice Gorsuch forever uphold the phrase written above the main entrance to the Supreme Court Building, the four words which express the ultimate responsibility of the Supreme Court: “EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW.”
Fortunately, Justice Gorsuch takes with him his family’s legacy and The Leadville Connection now established between the highest court in the land and the highest city in America: Leadville, Colorado! Thank you for your family’s service, now and then!
Kathy Bedell © Leadville Today. Kathy Bedell owns The Great Pumpkin, a digital media company that publishes two news sites: Leadville Today and Saguache Today. She may be reached at email@example.com.