BY TYLER O'NEIL | P J Media
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
On Saturday, President Donald Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett, a law professor at Notre Dame and a judge at the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, to the Supreme Court seat vacated by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Trump commemorated Ginsburg before introducing Barrett.
“Today it is my honor to nominate one of our nation’s most brilliant and gifted legal minds to the Supreme Court. She is a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials, and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution, Judge Amy Coney Barrett,” Trump said. “Judge Barrett is a graduate of Rhodes College and the University of Notre Dame Law School,” he noted. She graduated the first in her class and edited the school’s law review.
Barrett clerked for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and Trump introduced Scalia’s widow, Maureen.
“You are very eminently qualified for this job, you are going to be fantastic,” the president said to Barrett.
“If confirmed, Judge Barrett will be the first mother of school-age children ever to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court,” he added, introducing each of her seven children by name.
Trump joked, “I’m sure [her confirmation] will be extremely non-controversial.”
“I am deeply honored by the confidence you have placed in me,” Barrett told the president.
“I fully understand that this is a momentous decision for a president,” the nominee said. “I love the United States and I love the United States Constitution. I am truly humbled by the prospect of serving on the Supreme Court. Should I be confirmed, I will be mindful of the one who came before me.”
She noted that the flag is still at half-staff commemorating Ginsburg. “She not only broke glass ceilings, she smashed them.”
“Her life of public service serves as an example to us all,” Barrett said, noting Ginsburg’s close friendship with Anonin Scalia.
“Judges are not policymakers, and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy preferences they may hold,” she added.
Amy Coney Barrett’s background
Amy Coney Barrett graduated from Notre Dame Law School first in her class. She has taught there for decades — and continues to teach there while serving as a judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. After graduation, she clerked at the Supreme Court for Justice Antonin Scalia. As Princeton professor Robert P. George noted, even fellow clerks who disagreed with Barrett admired her intellect. Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman described her as “a brilliant lawyer.”
Barrett and her husband have seven children, ranging in age from 5 to 16. They adopted two of them from Haiti. One of her sons also has “special needs.” As George wrote, “As someone who excelled as a legal scholar and reached the pinnacle of her profession as a Supreme Court Justice, Barrett would be an example to women hoping to combine a flourishing family life with a professional vocation.”
Barrett is an originalist in the Scalia mold. Last year, she spoke about her judicial philosophy at the Washington, D.C., branch of my alma mater, Hillsdale College. She rebuked the notion of a “living Constitution,” arguing that the judge’s role is not to twist the text of the Constitution to fit his or her policy prescriptions but rather to interpret the law faithfully.
“If the judge is willing not to apply the law but to decide cases in a line, in accordance with personal preference rather than the law, then she’s not actually functioning as a judge at all. She’s functioning as a policymaker,” Barrett explained.
“And I would have had no interest in the job if the job was about policymaking and about making policy decisions,” the judge said. “My interest is in contributing to our tradition of judges upholding the rule of law.”
She also addressed the increasing political polarization centered on the Supreme Court.
“There’s a lot of talk these days about the courts being mere political institutions. But if we reduce the courts to mere politics, then why do we need them? We already have politicians. Courts are not arenas for politics. Courts are places where judges discharge the duty to uphold the rule of law,” Barrett said.
Yet the judge insisted that the Supreme Court is not partisan, not divided along the lines of Republicans and Democrats.
“So I don’t think that five-four decisions or splits on courts are explicable by partisan commitments or by outcomes in particular cases. I think they’re explicable by starting points, by first-order commitments. So there are differences in ways that judges approach the enterprise of interpreting the Constitution,” Barrett explained.
“All judges think that the original meaning of the Constitution—its history, the way that it was understood by those who ratified it, who drafted it, the founding generation—all judges take that as a data point, as relevant,” she said. “Those who are committed to originalism treat it as determinative when the original meaning is discernible. Others just treat it as a data point, but one that would not necessarily control.”
“Some judges approach the Constitution saying, ‘There are some constitutional commitments that we’re not going to back down from because the Constitution enshrines them. But with respect to those that the Constitution does not speak, we’re going to leave it to democratic majorities to work out.’ Others see the Constitution as having a more amorphous and evolving content and speaking to evolving values and majority—evolving values in ways that democratic majorities don’t have the freedom to make choices,” the judge explained.