WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced on Saturday that Amy Coney Barrett, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, is his nominee for the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Sept. 18.
If confirmed by the Senate, Barrett, 48, would bring youth and a conservative philosophy that could impact the nation’s highest court for decades. She would also give Republican appointees a 6-3 advantage on the Supreme Court.
“This is a very proud moment, indeed,” Trump said. “I know that you will make our country very, very proud.”
The news of Trump’s choice of Barrett was leaked Friday evening, but the President made it official at the White House on Saturday afternoon.
“Today it is my honor to nominate one of our nation’s most brilliant and gifted legal minds to the Supreme Court,” Trump said. “She is a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution.”
“She is the perfect combination of brilliant jurist and a woman who brings the argument to the court that is potentially the contrary to the views of the sitting women justices,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion political group, told The New York Times.
Barrett would become the youngest justice on the Supreme Court if she is confirmed. Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch is 52. She also would become the first Louisiana native to sit on the nation’s highest court since 1921, according to NOLA.com. Edward Douglass White was appointed as an associate justice by President Grover Cleveland in 1894 and was Chief Justice from 1910 until his death in 1921.
“I love the United States and I love the United States Constitution,” said Barrett, who also paid tribute to Ginsburg. “I am truly humbled by the prospect of serving on the Supreme Court.”
Barrett also paid tribute to her mentor, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, and referenced his friendship with Ginsburg despite their differences, saying that “disagreements need not destroy affection.”
“Should I be confirmed, I will be mindful who came before me,” Barrett said. “The flag of the United States is still flying at half-staff in memory of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to mark the end of a great American life.
“Justice Ginsburg began her career at a time when women were not welcome in the legal profession, but she not only broke glass ceilings, she smashed them.”
Trump was effusive in his praise for Barrett.
“I looked and I studied, and you are very eminently qualified for this job,” Trump said during the Rose Garden ceremony. “You are going to be fantastic.”
“Judge Amy Coney Barrett is an exceptionally impressive jurist and an exceedingly well-qualified nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement.
Trump urged Democrats to give Barrett a “respectful and dignified” confirmation hearing.
“I urge all members of the other side of the aisle to provide Judge Barrett with the respectful and dignified hearing that she deserves, and frankly that our country deserves,” Trump said. “I urge lawmakers and members of the media to refrain from personal or partisan attacks. The stakes for our country are incredibly high.”
Barrett said she looked forward to her confirmation hearings before the Senate.
“I will do my very best to show you that I am deserving of your support," Barrett said.
Barrett attended St. Catherine of Siena Catholic School and is a 1990 graduate of St. Dominican High School in Metairie, where she was class vice president, according to WWL. She graduated from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1994, and three years later earned her law degree from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, graduating at the top of her class. She continues to teach constitutional law at her alma mater, The Washington Post reported.
“There’s just consensus: Amy Barrett, is the best student, the smartest and most talented person to ever come through the University of Notre Dame Law School,” O. Carter Snead, a professor at Notre Dame Law School, told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Barrett met her husband while both were in law school. Jesse Barrett graduated from Notre Dame’s law school in 1999 and is a former federal prosecutor who is now in private practice. The couple has seven children, including one with Down syndrome and two who were adopted from Haiti. In 2019, Amy Coney Barrett told the Notre Dame Club of Washington, D.C., that she and her husband decided to adopt from Haiti because it was an impoverished country and that it was close enough for the children to visit when they became older, the Tribune reported.
“What greater thing can you do than raise children?” she said. “That’s where you have your greatest impact on the world.”
After graduating from law school, Barrett clerked for Judge Laurence Silberman, now a senior judge for the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for D.C., and in 1998 for Scalia, WWL reported. She has said that Scalia was a mentor. She was dubbed “The Conenator” by fellow law clerks “for destroying flimsy legal arguments,” the Chicago Tribune reported.
Barrett’s legal philosophy, like Scalia’s, is considered “originalist,” which is someone who believes the Constitution should be interpreted based on the original understanding of the authors when it was ratified.
During her three years as an appellate judge, Barrett has written more than 100 opinions, the Tribune reported. In June 2020, she was the lone dissenter in a ruling that blocked federal enforcement of Trump’s public charge immigration law in Illinois, according to Courthouse News Service. The law prevented immigrants from gaining legal residency in the United States if they relied on benefits such as food stamps or housing vouchers. It also altered who can be considered a “public charge” under the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.
Barrett also called for the rehearing of a case that struck down an Indiana abortion law, signed by then-Gov. Mike Pence, which prohibited abortions if a fetus was disabled.
Trump first nominated Barrett to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 2017. Barrett, who describes herself as a faithful Catholic, underwent intense scrutiny during her Senate confirmation. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, questioned whether Barrett could separate her faith from her rulings.
“You have a long history of believing that your religious beliefs should prevail,” Feinstein said. “The dogma lives loudly within you.”
“If you’re asking whether I take my Catholic faith seriously, I do, though I would stress that my personal church affiliation or my religious belief would not bear on the discharge of my duties as a judge,” Barrett answered.
“Any Senate Democrat who tries to go toe to toe with Barrett over her legal abilities,” Harvard law professor Noah Feldman wrote in 2018, “is going to lose. Badly.”
Barrett opposes abortion, but during her testimony during her 2017 confirmation hearing, she said she would “have no interest in” challenging Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
Barrett belongs to People of Praise, which, according to its website, is a “charismatic Christian community” that includes all denominations. Her parents are also members of the group, and her father was a coordinator of the group’s Southern chapters, NPR reported. The group also believes wives are subservient to husbands, according to Politico.
John Garvey, who taught Barrett at the Notre Dame Law School, said Barrett’s detractors who attempt to associate People of Praise with the regime described in the novel, "The Handmaid’s Tale,” are missing the point.
“It’s impossible to maintain such a fantasy with Barrett,” Garvey wrote in the Post. “Her husband -- I taught him, too -- is a wonderful man and a remarkably able lawyer, as was Ginsburg’s husband. No one who knew either couple would suppose that the woman needed instruction on how to think.”
Liberal groups have expressed concern over how Barrett might rule on abortion and the Affordable Care Act if she is elevated to the Supreme Court.
In 2017, Barrett criticized Chief Justice John Roberts' opinion in upholding the ACA.
“Chief Justice Roberts pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute,” Barrett wrote. “He construed the penalty imposed on those without health insurance as a tax, which permitted him to sustain the statute as a valid exercise of the taxing power; had he treated the payment as the statute did -- as a penalty -- he would have had to invalidate the statute as lying beyond Congress’s commerce power.”
“Amy Coney Barrett meets Donald Trump’s two main litmus tests: She has made clear she would invalidate the ACA and take health care away from millions of people and undermine a woman’s reproductive freedom,” Nan Aron, the president of Alliance for Justice, told the Times.
In a statement Saturday, Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee who is running against Trump in November’s election, characterized Barrett as “a jurist with a written track record of disagreeing with the Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act.”
Separating beliefs and the law can be tricky, but Barrett said she would not mix the two.
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