A week and two days following the death of US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg from pancreatic cancer, President Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett, 48, of the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, to replace her.
When President Trump quickly announced a Ginsburg replacement, political conservatives were ecstatic. If the addition of Barrett occurs, her views will align with those of Justices Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Chief Justice John Roberts—making conservatives the majority on the high court. The goal of the Republican right-wing is placing judges and justices in the courts who would reverse previous rulings which upheld rights for Black and other people of color, women, LGBTQ communities, and labor unions.
Barret, who is fairly new federal judgeship, was named in a list of recommended judicial candidates prepared for President Trump by The Federalist Society. An organization of which Barrett was briefly a member, the society of conservatives and libertarians believe they are rescuing America’s legal system and law schools from “liberal ideology.” In their value system, they feel that the Supreme Court has gone too far in its rulings such as racial integration and legalized abortion.
Conservative southern roots
On the surface, Barrett’s qualifications to serve on the Supreme Court are impeccable. Born in Louisiana as the oldest of seven children raised in a staunchly Catholic family, Barrett attended Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts magna cum laude, and was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa academic honors society. In 1997, she graduated first in her class at Notre Dame Law School in Notre Dame, Indiana. She earned her Juris Doctor summa cum laude.
Barrett clerked for two years under a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. At one point, she clerked one year for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, another conservative who, like Barrett, was an “originalist.” In this thinking, Originalists believe the Constitution can only be interpreted as the “Founding Fathers” intended when they wrote it.
A few years later, Barrett worked for a Washington DC-based law firm, Baker Botts, where her research work supported its client George W. Bush in the lawsuit Bush v Gore. The Supreme Court in that case stopped Florida’s presidential election votes recount, effectively declaring Bush the winner.
As a professor, Barrett taught law at George Washington University Law School and Notre Dame Law School. She also lectured at Blackstone Legal Fellowship for six years. To note, Blackstone’s summer training program for Christian law students was founded by the Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center characterizes as a hate group.
A handmaid’s tale
Civil rights and women’s organizations are alarmed about Barrett’s nomination. People for the American Way which fights right-wing extremism, issued a report detailing her disturbing rulings on the Seventh Circuit bench. She voted to deny a Black man a rehearing about his employer limiting employees to certain stores based on their race.
Planned Parenthood, a reproductive health group, fears Barrett would try to weaken or eliminate women’s abortion and other reproductive rights as a Supreme Court justice.
“Her opposition to our ability to access health care, including reproductive health care, is a disgrace to Judge Ginsburg’s incredible legacy,” LaKimba DeSadier, Indiana State Director at Planned Parenthood Advocates for Indiana and Kentucky, wrote in a statement.
Barrett’s views on abortion were evident when she and her husband signed onto an ad calling for an end to Roe v Wade. The ad asserted that life begins at fertilization.
Adding further opposition, more than 1,500 alumni of Rhodes College, Barrett’s undergraduate school, are against Barrett’s nomination. In a letter to the college’s president, they implied that Barrett was less than honest about her associations with right wing groups who oppose legalized abortion, LGBTQ rights, and other issues on which she would be expected to rule objectively as a Supreme Court Justice.
A fight for another conservative confirmation
Senate Judiciary Committee nomination hearings are scheduled for October 12. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) wants the full Senate to confirm Barrett before the November 3 national elections, to secure the high court’s conservative majority. If she is voted in, Barret will likely decide on Fulton V. City of Philadelphia, a case determining if a religious foster-care agency can refuse work to same-sex couples.
Angered by McConnell’s refusal to hold confirmation hearings in 2016 for Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to the court, and concerned about the rushed confirmation process, all ten Senate Democrats on the Judiciary Committee have requested that confirmation hearings be rescheduled to next January following the presidential inauguration.
The hearings could be delayed anyway since three Republican Senators, whose votes are needed as part of a majority vote for Barrett’s confirmation, have been stricken with COVID-19. Two of the three Senators are members of the Judiciary Committee, where Senators are required to vote in person, rather than vote remotely from their homes while under COVID-19 quarantine.
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