Amy Coney Barrett: Who is the New Supreme Court Justice?


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President Donald Trump and Jesse M. Barrett watch as Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas swears in Amy Coney Barrett as a U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice. (Credit: NPR)

Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in as the newest Supreme Court justice with a 52-48 vote on Oct. 27, around a month after Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. Barrett’s appointment served to be monumental as the Supreme Court now has a 6-3 conservative majority. But who is Amy Coney Barrett, and why was her nomination so significant? 

Barrett, an American lawyer and former law professor at Notre Dame Law School, was President Trump’s top nominee for the position. Barrett has an originalist interpretation of the Constitution, meaning she interprets the constitution the way the Founding Fathers did at the time the document was written. 

Barrett spent two years as a judicial law clerk after law school for Judge Laurence Silberman and Justice Antonin Scalia. She became a professor of law in 2010 and taught at Notre Dame. There, she received the “Distinguished Professor of the Year” award three times and taught federal courts, evidence, constitutional law and statutory interpretation. Her academic work has been published in multiple law reviews such as Columbia, Cornell, Virginia, Notre Dame and Texas. 

Amy Coney Barrett in her judge uniform (Credit: Rachel Malehorn)

The American Bar Association has given her a “well-qualified” rating from a substantial majority. According to the ABA, this rating is based “on an evaluation of the candidate’s integrity, professional competence, and judicial temperament.” 

However, Barrett’s appointment seemed hypocritical to many people. As junior Sabrina Namigohar said, “When President Obama wanted to nominate a new justice months away from the election, they didn’t allow it because they ‘wanted the people to choose.’ But when President Trump does [so] not even a month before, they rushed to make her the new justice.” 

President Trump and Amy Coney Barrett (Credit: Vox)

There has also been some discussion regarding whether Barrett will keep her religious beliefs separate from her work as a judge. Barrett, a devout Catholic, has raised eyebrows due to her rulings and association with anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments. 

Women’s rights and abortion advocates are sounding alarms that her appointment could perhaps overturn Roe Vs. Wade. Barrett has never been a part of a decision specifically on abortion rights, but some of her decisions, experts say, suggest opposition to rulings that stopped restrictions on abortion rights. 

From 2011 to 2016, she spoke on constitutional law at a summer program for law school students called Blackstone Legal Fellowship, which was made to inspire a “distinctly Christian worldview in every area of law.” This summer camp program has been shown to have anti-LGBT+ and anti-abortion sentiments. 

“I feel really scared about her being in the Supreme Court because of her wanting to take away the right of having an abortion and the rights of the LGBTQ+ community,” sophomore Emely Renteria said.

Amy Coney Barrett at one of her conformational hearings. (Credit: Northwest Public Broadcasting)

During her multiple confirmation hearings, Barrett was asked whether or not she believed that climate change was caused by humans. 

“I don’t think I am competent to opine on what causes global warming or not,” Barrett said. “I don’t think that my views on global warming or climate change are relevant to the job I would do as a judge, nor do I feel like I have views that are informed enough, and I haven’t studied scientific data. I’m not really in a position to offer any kind of informed opinion.”

This gathered the attention of Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg, who tweeted in response, “To be fair, I don’t have any ‘views on climate change’ either. Just like I don’t have any ‘views’ on gravity, the fact that the earth is round, photosynthesis nor evolution … But understanding and knowing their existence really makes life in the 21st century so much easier.”

Although Barrett’s appointment has stirred up a variety of feelings and opinions, it’s clear that her appointment will continue to affect America and its people for many years to come.