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Neil Gorsuch sold the property to the head of a major law firm

WASHINGTON — A month after Neil M. Gorsuch was appointed to the Supreme Court in April 2017, he and two partners finally sold the property they had been trying to sell for nearly two years. A vacation property. But when he reported sales the following year, he left blank a field asking for the identity of the buyer.

Colorado County real estate records show that Greenberg Traurig, a sprawling law firm that often handles business in court, was run by its chief executive, Brian L. Duffy, and his wife, Cary Duffy. Kari Duffy purchased the property.

Earlier Tuesday, Politico reported the identity of the buyer — and Judge Gorsuch’s decision not to disclose that information. The revelations come amid heightened scrutiny of the Supreme Court’s ethics and financial disputes, prompting calls from Democratic lawmakers to tighten rules for judges.

ProPublica reported this month that Justice Clarence Thomas failed to reveal that he had repeatedly received free travel from big Republican donor Harlan Crow for luxury vacations and other purposes, and that he had sold his Georgia estate To Mr. Crowe.

Stephen Gillers, a New York University professor and legal ethics expert, said Judge Gorsuch did not break the law by omitting the buyer’s identity. Under the Financial Disclosure Act of 1978, federal judges are not required to disclose who bought property from them.

Gabe Roth, executive director of Fix the Court, a nonpartisan group that urges greater transparency and accountability among judges, agreed that the omission did not violate the law. But he thinks Congress should pass legislation expanding what judges must disclose, including any lost sales, the nature of the partnership holding the property and who the buyer was.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin, an Illinois Democrat who leads the judiciary committee, said in a statement that the committee plans to review potential ethics reform legislation at the Supreme Court.

“We’ve seen a steady stream of revelations that Supreme Court justices have fallen short of the ethical standards expected of other federal judges and public servants,” he said. “The need for Supreme Court ethics reform is clear, and if the Court does not act appropriately, Congress must act.”

The Supreme Court press office did not respond to Judge Gorsuch’s request for comment.

Greenberg Traurig employs about 2,650 attorneys in 45 locations around the world and had revenue of more than $2 billion in 2021, according to its website.

A search of the Supreme Court dockets on the legal research site Nexis returned more than four dozen cases involving the firm’s lawyers from Justice Gorsuch’s appointment to the end of 2022, the most recent date in the database. These include cases brought before the court, petitions to deny appeals to be heard, and amicus curiae statements filed in cases where the company does not represent the litigants.

Duffy, who lives in Colorado, did not respond to an email from The New York Times. But he told Politico that he bought the property because he was a fly fisherman, and that he never argued before Judge Gorsuch or met him socially. He also said he was unaware that Jurist had a stake in the property when he first made the offer.

It is unclear when the offer was made. The justice’s ownership of the property was described in a March 2017 article in The New York Times that detailed the justice’s relationship with billionaire Philip F. Anschutz.

In 2006, Anschutz, a major conservative donor, lobbied Colorado’s only Republican senator and the George W. Bush administration to nominate Gorsuch for an appeals court seat. The 40 acres Duffy ended up buying was another link between Colorado and the George W. Bush administration. Jurist and tycoon.

In 2005, Judge Gorsuch, along with two of Mr. Anschutz’s top lieutenants, formed a limited liability company to acquire the land.

Property records show they, calling themselves the Walden Group, bought the property for $900,000 and built a 2,923-square-foot log cabin for their fishing vacation. It includes 2,000 feet on both sides of the Colorado River. The structure of the joint venture is time-sharing, with each partner entitled to use it for a certain number of days.

In 2017, a spokeswoman for Judge Gorsuch told The Times that he donated $360,000 to the Walden Group for a 20% stake; Mr. Anschutz’s two deputies each contributed twice, owning 40% shares.

While Justice Gorsuch donated the least amount of money, any correspondence about the property was addressed to him in federal court in Denver, according to county records.

In 2015, Judge Gorsuch and his partners began trying to sell the property. They originally listed it for $2,495,000 in July, a real estate listing shows. County records show that Mr. Duffy and his wife reduced the price several times before they bought it for $1,825,000 in May 2017.

In the following year’s financial disclosure form, Judge Gorsuch reported transactions in 113 investment matters on line 56, most of which appeared to be stocks, bonds or dividends.

He was terse, writing “Walden Group LLC” in the column seeking a description of the property, but he didn’t explain what it was or mention real estate. He estimated the sale at anywhere from $250,001 to $500,000, and left a field blank asking him to list the “identity of the buyer/seller (if private transaction).”

Judge Gorsuch did not report any proceeds from the sale, and it appears he nearly broke even on that front.

Mr Ross said the incident showed that judges should be asked to be more candid in their annual reports.

“There have been examples of these types of deals being missed by judges, but even when they’re included, the public has every right to know more,” he said. “It’s difficult to do basic oversight without knowing who’s on the other side of the deal.”

Kitty Bennett contributed research.

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