Trump’s Supreme Court Pick: Who is Amy Coney Barrett?

The Quint
·4-min read

On Friday, 25 September, just a week after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg's death, Trump announced his nominee for her replacement – Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

President Donald Trump fast-tracked the 48-year-old conservative intellectual into the wings. This move is crucial, as by choosing Barrett, Trump tips the Supreme Court further right ahead of the Presidential election on 3 November.

WHO IS AMY CONEY BARRETT?

A sharp academic, Amy Coney Barrett has made a name for herself among legal circles for her legal acumen.

Coming to national prominence in 2017, Barrett was pulled from her post as law professor at the University of Notre Dame, her alma mater, and named to the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman, a liberal constitutional scholar who advocated for Trump’s impeachment before the House Judiciary Committee, wrote in a Bloomberg opinion article that "Barrett deserves to be on the Supreme Court".

“I got to know Barrett more than 20 years ago when we clerked at the Supreme Court during the 1998-99 term. Of the 30-some clerks that year, all of whom had graduated at the top of their law school classes and done prestigious appellate clerkships before coming to work at the court, Barrett stood out,” Feldman wrote.

“To add to her merits, Barrett is a sincere, lovely person. I never heard her utter a word that wasn’t thoughtful and kind – including in the heat of real disagreement about important subjects. She will be an ideal colleague,” he said.

RIGHT OF CENTRE

A Catholic, Amy Coney Barrett has ties to a particularly conservative Christian faith group, People of Praise, which has received much attention by the US Press.

Group members, a New York Times report indicated, “swear a lifelong oath of loyalty to one another, and are assigned and accountable to a personal adviser.” Moreover, the NYT added, the group “teaches that husbands are the heads of their wives and should take authority for their family.” And legal experts questioned whether such oaths “could raise legitimate questions about a judicial nominee’s independence and impartiality.”

LGTBQ groups too, have flagged the group teachings stating sexual relations should only occur between heterosexual married couples. Human Rights Campaign, a LGBTQ advocacy group, has voiced strong opposition to Barrett's confirmation, declaring her an "absolute threat to LGBTQ rights".

Further, Barrett's record or rulings on cases involving gun rights and immigration imply that she would be as reliable on the right of the court, as Ruth Bader Ginsberg was famously on the left, reported BBC.

"Ginsburg maintained one of the most consistent liberal voting records in the history of the court. Barrett has the same consistency and commitment", said Jonathan Turley, a professor of law at George Washington University. "She is not a work-in-progress like some nominees. She is the ultimate 'deliverable' for conservative votes."

Her stance on abortion and healthcare is arguably the most debated among Democrats with reference to her recent nomination. Many Democrats have come out in opposition of Barrett's nomination, fearing she will dismantle former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

WHAT IS THE ABORTION DEBATE ABOUT?

"The best insight into how Barrett might rule as a Supreme Court justice likely comes from her academic scholarship, an area in which she has been prolific. The Washington Post reported on Saturday that Trump wants a nominee with a “portfolio of solid academic writing,” and Barrett (perhaps more than any other nominee on the reported shortlist) “fits that bill to a tee", says the Supreme Court website.

"Several of those articles, however, drew fire at Barrett’s 7th Circuit confirmation hearing, with Democratic senators suggesting that they indicate that Barrett would be influenced by her Catholic faith, particularly on the question of abortion."

Barrett co-wrote her first law review article, Catholic Judges in Capital Cases, which explored "the effect of the Catholic Church’s teachings on the death penalty on federal judges, but it also used the church’s teachings on abortion and euthanasia as a comparison point, describing the prohibitions on abortion and euthanasia as “absolute” because they “take away innocent life", cites the SCOTUS blog.

When questioned about the article and her faith, however, Barrett has repeatedly iterated in that she does not believe it is “lawful for a judge to impose personal opinions, from whatever source they derive, upon the law,” and she pledged that her views on abortion “or any other question will have no bearing on the discharge of my duties as a judge.”

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