As private lawyer, Trump high court pick was friend to business

Wed Feb 1, 2017 9:32pm EST
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By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As a lawyer in private practice for a decade, President Donald Trump's U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch often fought on behalf of business interests, including efforts to curb securities class action lawsuits, experience that could mould his thinking if he is confirmed as a justice.

Gorsuch, a conservative federal appeals court judge from Colorado nominated by wealthy businessman Trump on Tuesday, could turn out to be a friend to business, having represented the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in fending off securities class actions, one of the most hotly contested areas of corporate law.

The chamber is the largest U.S. business lobbying group.

If confirmed, Gorsuch would be one of the only current justices with extensive experience on business issues in private practice.

Securities class action lawsuits are filed by investors who allege misconduct by a company whose stock price has tanked, hurting investors' portfolios. These once-common lawsuits now face higher hurdles and are filed less often.

Congress passed laws in 1995 and 1998 making it harder to bring securities class actions. Later court rulings, including one in which Gorsuch was involved, clarified the requirements under the laws.

From 1995 to 2005, Gorsuch worked at boutique law firm Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel in Washington, becoming a partner in 1998. He had a wide range of clients, including individuals and nonprofits, as well as various business interests. While there, he filed two briefs on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce seeking limits to securities class actions.

One of Gorsuch's briefs came in a securities fraud case called Dura Pharmaceuticals v. Broudo. The Supreme Court in 2005 ruled unanimously for the company, but did not issue the kind of broad ruling Gorsuch had sought, said Patrick Coughlin, the lawyer who argued the case on behalf of the investors who sued.   Continued...

U.S. President Donald Trump and Neil Gorsuch (L) smile as Trump nominated Gorsuch to be an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 31, 2017.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque