President Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the United States Supreme Court is one more example of the president keeping his promises. In 2016, he promised, “I am going to put in… great conservative judges, great intellects.” Judge Amy Coney Barrett fits this description well.
Her writings have been published by five different prestigious law reviews and she has taught at both George Washington University and Notre Dame University law schools. At Notre Dame, her alma mater, she graduated first in her class summa cum laude and was an executive editor of the Notre Dame Law Review.
When President Trump nominated her to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, one of the highest courts in the land, support from those who know her was strong. Every law clerk that had worked with her and all forty-nine of her Norte Dame Law School faculty colleagues supported her nomination. Four hundred and fifty of her former students signed a letter to leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee that said, “Her teaching is remarkable, engaging, challenging, and unbiased. Her students universally recognize her brilliance as a legal thinker.”
During her confirmation hearings, Senator Diane Feinstein infamously said that “…the dogma lives loudly within you,” referring to Justice Barrett’s Catholic faith. Feinstein, deservedly, got a lot of push back for that remark. After all, in the United States, we do not have a religious test for public office. In fact, it may be a fairer question to the presidential nominee of Senator Feinstein’s party, Joe Biden. Why does the dogma live so quietly in him on issues like abortion since he is a self-professing Catholic?
Before she taught at law school or became a judge, Barrett clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and many consider Justice Scalia to be a prime mentor for Barrett. In a way, this seems appropriate for her to be the selection by President Trump to fill the seat previously held by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justices Ginsburg and Scalia were the Supreme Court’s “odd couple.” They agreed with each other less than any other justices when it came to cases before the Supreme Court. Outside of the Court, it was a different matter: Scalia and Ginsburg shared a love of Opera and a similar sense of humor. The two justices would celebrate New Years with each other and their spouses.
It is a type of civility that we sadly lack in our public affairs today and it is unlikely to be displayed during the confirmation hearings by Democrats. Their real problem with Justice Barrett is not her faith – it is that, like Justice Scalia, she is a constitutional originalist: a jurist that believes we should look for the intent of our Founders in the Constitution. Cases should be decided on this original intent instead of legislating from the bench.
In 2013, Barrett wrote, “I tend to agree with those who say that a justice’s duty is to the Constitution and that it is thus more legitimate for her to enforce her best understanding of the Constitution rather than a precedent she thinks is clearly in conflict with it.”
A Supreme Court Justice that agrees with a duty to the Constitution and enforcing her best understanding of it? We would be well served to have such a Justice; let us confirm Justice Barrett.