By Currents News Staff and Jorge I. Dominguez-Lopez
LONG ISLAND — President Donald Trump officially announced today the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to succeed Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Barrett, her husband Jesse M. Barrett, and the couple’s seven children were present at the event in the White House Rose Garden. The president described Barrett as “one of our nation’s most brilliant and gifted legal minds.”
“I stand before you today,” President Trump said at the beginning of his remarks, “to fulfill one of the highest and most important duties under the United States Constitution — the nomination of a Supreme Court Justice”.
Paying tribute to Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the president said that “over the past week our nation has mourned the loss of true American legend.”
Then he described the highlights of Barrett’s career as well as her personal life as a wife and mother. He pointed out that if she is confirmed, Barrett will be the first woman in the Supreme Court with school-age children.
President Trump expressed his desire for a civil and respectful confirmation process in the Senate.
First Lady Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, his wife Karen, Maureen Scalia, widow of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, senators, and other officials were in attendance.
After the president, Barrett also started her remarks by paying tribute to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and to Justice Scalia.
“Particularly poignant to me,” Barrett said, “was her long and deep friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia, my own mentor. Justices Scalia and Ginsburg disagreed fiercely in print without rancor in person. Their ability to maintain a warm and rich friendship despite their differences even inspired an opera. These two great Americans demonstrated that arguments, even about matters of great consequence, need not destroy affection.”
While explaining her judicial philosophy, she said: “Justice Antonin Scalia’s judicial philosophy is mine too. A judge must apply the law as written,” she said.
Barret thanked her husband and her family. “The president has asked me to become the ninth justice,” she said, “and as it happens, I’m used to being in a group of nine.”
Barrett, a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, was a law clerk to the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia and is known to be a conservative, pro-life Catholic. She would take the seat of the liberal icon and vocal pro-choice Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, changing the balance between the liberal and conservative wings of the Supreme Court.
If confirmed, Barrett will be the sixth Catholic on the court, joining justices Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and Brett Kavanaugh.
Barrett received national attention in 2017 during confirmation hearings for her nomination to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. and other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee pressed Barrett about her Catholic faith.
Senator Feinstein questioned Barrett about an article she had published arguing that Catholic judges should in some cases recuse themselves from death penalty cases due to their moral objections to capital punishment. “The dogma lives loudly within you, and that is a concern,” Senator Feinstein famously told her. Many Catholic and conservative commentators criticized the anti-Catholic bias of the comment.
The Senate approved Barrett’s nomination to the Seventh Circuit with a slim 55-43 vote. Barrett’s demeanor during the hearings enhanced her reputation.
Democrat legislators will have a difficult time stopping the Supreme Court confirmation process — Republicans have a majority in the Senate. But at the same time, Democrats feel the pressure from their base to do anything in their power to present this confirmation process just five weeks before the election as illegitimate.
The news of Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court will be particularly significant for the pro-life movement. One of the main goals of the movement for 40 years has been supporting pro-life presidential candidates that would name pro-life judges to the Supreme Court. The hope behind this strategy is to reverse the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision that ruled abortion falls under the right to privacy and is protected by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. A majority of pro-life judges on the Supreme Court could make overturning Roe vs. Wade possible.
Barrett was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1972. She studied at St. Mary’s Dominican High School and majored in English literature at Rhodes College, where she graduated magna cum laude. She then studied law at Notre Dame, where she graduated first in her class in 1997.
After graduation, Barrett worked as a judicial law clerk for Judge Laurence Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and then for Justice Antonin Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1998 to 1999. As the late Justice Scalia, she considers herself an originalist. Originalists assert that all statements in the constitution must be interpreted based on the original understanding of the authors or the people at the time it was ratified.
Barrett is married to Jesse M. Barrett, a fellow Notre Dame Law graduate and a partner at SouthBank Legal in South Bend, Indiana. They have seven children. Two of their children were born in Haiti and adopted by the couple. One of the couple’s biological children is a special needs child with Down Syndrome.
Barrett has been a professor at George Washington University Law School and Notre Dame Law School. Her former students and graduates of Notre Dame Law School recently issued a letter of support for her nomination saying that “Professor Barrett and her husband, Jesse, are raising seven children — a remarkable feat in itself. Professor Barrett’s dedication as a spouse and mother alongside her stellar teaching and scholarship represents the epitome of Notre Dame Law School’s challenge for its graduates to be ‘a different kind of lawyer.’”
She is respected even among people who disagree with her philosophy. In a mostly-critical profile today, New York Times columnist Adam Liptak said: “Judge Barrett’s judicial opinions […] are marked by care, clarity and a commitment to the interpretive methods used by Justice Antonin Scalia, the giant of conservative jurisprudence for whom she worked as a law clerk from 1998 to 1999.”
Barrett’s confirmation process will further polarize the charged 2020 electoral campaign. Republicans and Democrats hope that the confirmation process will mobilize their respective bases for the coming election. Both conservative and liberal interest groups have already prepared multi-million dollar campaigns to influence the Senate confirmation and its impact in the coming election.