When Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the Supreme Court earlier this year he got Justice Antonin Scalia's seat, his office and his elk, Leroy.
In recent appearances, Gorsuch has been telling the story of how the elk — actually just its mounted head — came to be his office mate.
The story starts more than a decade ago when Scalia shot the elk on a hunting trip and had its head mounted and hung in his Supreme Court office.
Gorsuch explained at an event in Washington last week that after Scalia died in 2016 it seemed that the elk was destined "to become homeless." That's because the elk head, part of an animal estimated to have weighed around 900 pounds, is "much too much for anyone's living room wall," Gorsuch said.
"And then someone got the idea that Leroy might make, well, a sort of unusual welcome-to-the-neighborhood gift for the new guy. What a gift," Gorsuch said.
Christopher Scalia, one of the late justice's nine children and the co-editor of a collection of his father's speeches published this week, said in a telephone interview that his father shot the Rocky Mountain elk on a hunting trip in Colorado in 2003. Though the justice had other hunting trophies displayed in his home including white tail deer, an antelope or two and a boar's head, the elk was "way too big for our house," Christopher Scalia said. So Leroy took up residence at the Supreme Court facing the justice's desk.
"He was proud of it and he enjoyed showing it off," Christopher Scalia said.
Glen Summers, a former law clerk of Scalia's who was with him when he shot Leroy, said Scalia made a "magnificent, long-range" shot of some 460 yards. It was the only elk Scalia ever killed, he said. As for why the justice called him Leroy, that's a mystery, Summers said.
After Scalia died, Leroy was crated up and sent to Summers in Colorado, he said. And when Gorsuch was nominated to the court, Summers asked what others were also thinking, he said: Would Gorsuch, a fellow conservative and outdoorsman, take Leroy back to Washington? Gorsuch "graciously accepted," Summers said. So back across the country Leroy went. He was presented to Gorsuch at a reunion of Scalia clerks earlier this year.
Gorsuch joked last week that he is actually "delighted to share space with Leroy" and that they "share a few things in common."
"Turns out, we're both native Coloradans. We both received a rather shocking summons to Washington," he said. "Neither of us is ever going to forget Justice Scalia."
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