Amy Coney Barrett becomes newest Supreme Court judge

Editor's note: this article was written back in October, but is just now getting uploaded due to publishing delays. Even in this tumultuous time, it's important to stay informed on the people who are making decisions that could impact lives across the nation, and I encourage you all to read Kerem's well-researched and well-written article.

Early Life

Amy Coney Barrett was born January 28,1972 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her original name was Amy Vivian Coney and is the oldest of 7 siblings. Her father, Michael Coney, was an attorney, and her mother, Linda, a high school French teacher.


Amy grew up in Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans. She received Catholic education from elementary school to high school and graduated from St. Mary's Dominican High School in 1990. She studied at Rhodes College where she majored in English and minored in French. This college is also affiliated with the Presbyterian church. As a graduate student, she earned her J.D. from Notre Dame in 1997.

Career

After graduation, Barrett spent two years working as a clerk for Judge Laurence Silberman from 1997-1998 and Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative icon, from 1998-1999. After this, she worked for 2 years under the Miller, Cassidy, Larroca & Lewin law firm in Washington D.C. In 2001, Miller Cassidy merged with Baker Botts and Barrett worked in the famous Bush v. Gore case representing George W. Bush.

After practicing law for a short amount of time, she turned to teaching law. She was a visiting professor and a research fellow at George Washington University Law School for a year and returned to Notre Dame in 2002. Barrett taught federal courts, constitutional law and statutory interpretation and was voted Professor of the Year three times. Her works have been published in the Columbia, Cornell, Virginia, Notre Dame, and Texas law reviews. From 2011-2016 she spoke at Blackstone Legal Fellowship, a summer training program for Christian law school students.


In 2017, President Donald Trump nominated Barrett for a seat as a 7th Circuit Judge covering Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. The hearing debated whether her deep religious beliefs would influence her court decisions before eventually confirming her in October 2017 by a 55-43 vote.


She was once again nominated by Trump on September 26, 2020, to fill the spot of liberal-minded Ruth Bader Ginsberg after her death on September 18. Barrett was confirmed on October 26 with a narrow 52-48 vote.


Nomination Controversy

According to an AXIOS article published March 31, 2019[1], Trump was quoted saying he was ‘saving her [Barrett] for Ginsburg’. At the time, the nomination seemed unlikely since it didn’t look like Ginsburg would retire while he was in office–she had survived 3 rounds of cancer, and appeared healthy back then. But now, many activist groups are concerned over Barrett's confirmation because she has repeatedly expressed her conservative opinions through her research writings such as “Catholic Judges in Capital Cases,” which looked into Catholic interpretations of death sentence, euthanazia, and abortion. Another way she expressed her views is through her decisions in federal cases regarding gun rights, immigration and abortion.


Despite her controversial opinions, the main controversy of this nomination is the hypocrisy of the government. In February 2016, during Obama's presidency, conservative Justice Antonin Scalia passed at the age of 79. After his death, Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill the position but was rejected by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who stated that the American people should have a voice in the next selection and that the nomination shouldn’t happen until after the new president is elected. Elections were 9 months away, and the seat was kept empty. Justice Neil Gorsuch was confirmed as Trump’s first nominee. This time around, Republicans are making their best effort towards a quick nomination and confirmation before the 2020 general election. Hearings began Monday, October 12 and finished Thursday, October 15. She was confirmed 8 days before the election. Another detail that gathered a lot of negative responses was the application of the “Ginsberg rule.” The Ginsberg rule was created after Justice RBG was confirmed and shared limited information about her views on certain topics because they would possibly come up in courts. Barrett took this rule to extremes and refused to respond to any political questions. Questions she avoided covered several pressing issues such as climate change, immigration, and Roe v Wade.


Beliefs

Same-sex Marriage

Barret spoke a total of 5 times at the Blackstone Summer program and received 2 payments of $2,100 from ADF. ADF is a far right group that files cases in the name of “defending religious liberty.” The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, describes ADF as a group that ‘supports recriminalization of homosexuality’ in the United States. The group has ‘defended state-sanctioned sterilization of transgender people abroad,’ linked homosexuality to pedophilia, and claims that a ‘homosexual agenda’ will destroy Christrianity and society. Barrett claimed she wasn’t aware of ADF’s background during her federal confirmation hearings.


This isn’t the only instance in which Barrett has been connected with Anti-LGBTQ+ views. In a lecture given at Jacksonville University, she expressed her belief that extending Title IX to protect trans people would be straining the interpretation. Title IX protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.

Abortion

During the first presidential debate, Trump argued that Biden didn’t know about Barrett’s stance on Roe v Wade, the abortion landmark case. But the truth is that there are valid reasons to conclude Barrett is pro-life. In an ad published by St. Joseph County Right to Life, Roe v Wade was described as ‘barbaric’ and mentioned that life began at conception. Both Barrett and her husband signed the letter. She also refused to answer a series of questions regarding the topic. One of those questions was if there would be a problem with giving the death penalty to women who get an abortion. Her stance on abortion may be the reason why Trump nominated her, because she will potentially play a key role in striking down the Affordable Care Act. In 2012, she signed a petition arguing that the ACA infringed religious freedom by making employers provide access to birth control in their insurance plans. In 2017, she also published a journal writing against the Supreme Court’s support of Congress’ authority to enforce aspects of ACA.


2nd Amendment

The second amendment protects the right to bear arms. ACB expressed her disagreement with the Court of Appeal’s decision in regards to the Kanter v Barr case. In his case, Kanter believed he shouldn't be prohibited from exercising his 2nd Amendment after he had paid fines and served a year long sentence for a nonviolent crime. The court of appeals rejected his argument and Barett expressed her disagreement stating that the 2nd Amendment “confers an individual right, intimately connected with the natural right of self defense, and not limited to civic participation (i.e., militia service).” Democrats see her stance as a possible issue, especially as the case of Kyle Rittenhouse was brought to national attention.


Immigration

ACB voted to uphold the “public charge” rule. Under the Public Charge rule, immigrants can be denied green cards and visas if they are deemed not capable of making a living. Families can qualify if they have received public help like food stamps or received any other form of economic aid. This will give way to larger problems because during this pandemic, families are unsure whether getting much-needed help is worth it. During her last 3 years as a circuit judge, she wrote about her disagreement with the Cook County v Wolf case in which the panel of judges voted in favor of immigrants. She believes that the government should be able to deny papers if they meet the criteria. During her 3 years, she also denied many of the appeals against rulings presented by asylum seekers. If her stance against immigration follows this pattern, many programs like DACA and TPS are at risk.

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