Josh Benham

About the series

Real People stories are about people volunteering, doing good deeds, achieving, performing, enjoying the outdoors ... making the most of life in Union and Wallowa counties. Do you have a story idea or photo for this feature? Email acutler@lagrandeobserver.com .

When Justice Neil M. Gorsuch was announced as the Supreme Court’s 113th justice, Dr. Chris Mammen wasn’t shocked by the news.

“(Gorsuch) is one of these guys that everybody who knows him, says, ‘Oh yeah, this guy’s destined to be a senator or on the Supreme Court someday,’” Mammen said. “It lends credence to the (notion) that some people are just destined for greatness.”

As one of Gorsuch’s close friends in college, the La Grande native was among the politicians and other dignitaries in the Washington, D.C., crowd at his April 10 swearing-in ceremony. Gorsuch was previously on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Colorado.

Mammen, a Berkeley, California, resident, currently is an intellectual property litigator and partner with the firm Hogan Lovells in San Francisco. He wrote an opinion piece that was printed in the San Francisco Chronicle detailing his support for Gorsuch. He has also written about Gorsuch in publications such as the Los Angeles Daily Journal and was quoted in a Wall Street Journal article about the new Supreme Court justice.

His parents are Dale and Ginny Mammen, of La Grande, and he was born and raised in Union County. He went to Central Elementary School, La Grande Middle School and graduated from La Grande High School in 1986.

Following undergraduate studies at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, and graduating with his Doctorate of Law at Cornell in 1993, Mammen began studying for his Doctorate of Philosophy from Oxford University in England. That’s when he met Gorsuch, who had enrolled a year before in the same study.

“Oxford is organized into a group of colleges, and each college has several hundred students across a range of disciplines,” Mammen said. “It provides the social nucleus for each Oxford student.”

Mammen, who graduated from Oxford in 2001 after working as an attorney in the United States while working on his thesis, was introduced to Gorsuch through classmates. They were among a group of doctorate candidates working together in the library on their dissertations, and the friendship grew and blossomed through coffee breaks, lunches and brainstorming sessions.

“We’ve known each other for almost 25 years,” Mammen said.

Mammen said he “goaded” Gorsuch into asking out his future wife, Louise, while at Oxford, and was a groomsman in their wedding, and he has stayed at Gorsuch’s house in Colorado in the past.

That close relationship meant Mammen kept a close eye on the nomination proceedings. Mammen said he was among of a group of friends of Gorsuch, ranging from high school to Oxford, who organized and worked collaboratively to support his nomination. As the nomination list narrowed, “That’s when it got really exciting,” Mammen said. “It was still pretty significant odds to be on the short list, but nobody knew until the announcement (who it would be).”

On Jan. 31, President Donald Trump officially announced the nomination of Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, filling the seat vacated by Justice Antonin Scalia. Gorsuch was confirmed April 7, and the swearing-in ceremony was set for April 10. Mammen said while those supporting Gorsuch submitted their names to be on the guest list, it’s up to the White House to send out official invitations.

“We were all trading emails all weekend, (saying) ‘Have you got it yet?’” Mammen said.

Mammen hadn’t yet received an invitation when he flew out to Washington, D.C., the day before Gorsuch was to be sworn in.

“By the time I got to Washington, the invitation was there,” Mammen said.

In a private session at the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. administered an oath given to federal officials to support and defend the Constitution.

The public ceremony seen around the nation was held in the White House Rose Garden, with Trump and the other eight Supreme Court Justices looking on.

Following all the official ceremonies, Mammen said there were meet and greets with well-known politicians and officials from the Capitol.

“The whole day was full of celebrations,” Mammen said. “We toured the Supreme Court and (attended) other receptions and parties. It was a really good day.”

Mammen said despite the whirlwind day he was still able to catch up with Gorsuch for a few minutes and wish him well. He said attending the swearing in and the ceremonies held in the White House and elsewhere was “an incredible honor.”

17070366