Amy Coney Barrett is the newest justice on the Supreme Court, coming into office after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Trump said that “it is highly fitting that Justice Barrett fills the seat of a true pioneer for women”, pointing to how Ginsburg served as a role model for many American women. She is new, so her ruling patterns have not been established, but what do we know about her so far?

Amy’s Background

Amy Coney Barrett was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. She was the oldest child out of seven children. A devout Catholic, she went to private schools in elementary and high school. She received a BA in English Literature. She then received a law degree from Notre Dame and graduated at the top of her class. After graduating, she worked for Judge Lawrence Silberman and Justice Antonin Scalia. She also worked as a law professor at Notre Dame.

Letter of Recommendation

I had the opportunity of speaking with Professor Roger P. Alford, who worked with Amy Coney Barrett. He wrote a letter of approval for her and sent it to the Senate Judiciary Committee. He “had very good things to say about her”. In the letter, he praised her ability to balance family life and work. He said that “she is always prepared, always thoughtful, and always caring”. She has a loving community around her and a supportive husband.  He said that she was humble, not wanting to compare herself to others or have others compare themselves to her. She is the first woman on the court to be the mother of school-age children.

Amy Coney Barrett Track Record

Her record indicates that she favors rulings of conservative justices. She supports an originalist interpretation of the Constitution, rather than a contextualist approach. This means that she supports reading the Constitution as it was originally intended instead of reading it from a modern standpoint. Amy also does not see stare decisis as binding. She will rule in favor with her interpretation of the Constitution rather than follow rulings of previous justices that she disagrees with. 

Amy is expected to give the court a rightward tilt, though it is unknown what she will do until her ruling patterns have been clearly established. She has been given a hard time for her Catholic faith, though she claims that she will let the Constitution guide her, not her opinion. She would prefer not to “legislate from the bench” and instead supports judicial independence. Amy was questioned about her ideas about severability on the Affordable Care Act. She responded by saying that the unconstitutional aspects of laws would be severed, but the rest of the law would be kept intact. She would not abuse her power as a justice by finding small parts of laws she disagreed with unconstitutional to get rid of them. 

She has a track record of siding with conservative justices. She dissented less frequently with conservative justices than liberal justices. Many people believe that she will be very similar to Scalia, and her work for him shows how much she respected him. She has said that she would not blindly follow Scalia. She follows his philosophy of originalism but may reach a different outcome. She has upheld the Second Amendment in previous rulings, dissenting against a ruling not allowing a man convicted of a white-collar crime to own a gun. She is pro-life, though she has not said that this will come out in her rulings. She has not implied that she intends to overturn Roe vs. Wade. Her pro-life tendencies also give her a bias against capital punishment.

Standing Strong During Senate Hearing

Barrett was asked questions during Senate hearings, everything from why the Bill of Rights was adopted to how she would react to pro-life groups. Senator Lindsey Graham instructed her not to interfere with them. She agreed, saying that judges are not supposed to legislate. Many of her responses follow a similar approach. She cannot give her opinion on legislative questions. Doing so would undermine democracy. She saw the question of substantive due process as such an issue. Many of the Republican Senators appeared to offer her advice and help her out in the hearings. Senator Hawley pointed out that it was unfair to attribute all of the worst rulings of Justice Scalia’s to hers. He confirmed that she was an independent woman with her own mind and opinions.

Amy Coney Barrett Being Appointed

The debate about whether it is fair or unfair for the Trump administration to appoint her at the end is ironic due to its similarity to the Marbury vs. Madison Supreme Court case, where Adams was appointing judges to frustrate his successor. The Constitution itself says nothing about when a president may appoint judges. This makes it Trump’s discretion.

Author: Miranda Smith

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