Senate confirms Justice Barrett securing conservative Supreme Court for decades



Justice Barrett’s swearing in on Oct. 26, 2020

Hannah Brooks, Staff Writer

A little over one month ago, many had never heard of Amy Coney Barrett.  However, on Sept. 26, in the now infamous Rose Garden Ceremony, Judge Barrett’s name became known when President Trump officially announced her as his nominee to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  Exactly one month later, on Oct. 26, Justice Barrett was confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Barrett’s confirmation hearings took place from Oct. 12 to Oct. 15, before the Senate Judiciary Committee of 10 Democrats and 12 Republicans.  For the most part the hearings were fairly uneventful.  The primary criticism of Barrett was her reluctance to give concrete answers about her positions on relevant issues, saying she has “no agenda.”  However, Barrett’s career and rulings provide some insight into where she stands.

Justice Barrett graduated summa cum laude from Notre Dame Law School and served as executive editor of the Notre Dame Law Review.  She clerked for two federal judges, one of whom became her mentor – the Supreme Court’s late Justice Antonin Scalia.  Justice Barrett has followed in Justice Scalia’s footsteps, especially with respect to his philosophy of originalism: the belief the Constitution should be strictly followed as initially written.  Following her clerkships, Justice Barrett was a fellow at George Washington University before becoming a law professor at Notre Dame for 15 years.

In 2017, President Trump nominated Barrett to become a judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, covering Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin.  In her 2017 confirmation hearings, much like this month’s hearings, Democrats raised questions about Barrett’s personal beliefs potentially conflicting with rulings, with several senators, notably Senator Diane Feinstein of California, concerned about Barrett’s politics and religious “dogma.”  Nonetheless, Barrett was confirmed, with three Democrats crossing the aisle to support her. 

Barrett is a Catholic and she does not deny how important her faith is in her life, but she has repeatedly stated her religious – and personal – beliefs will not impact her rulings.  She has recently weighed in on several hot topic issues.  Regarding abortion, Barrett dissented on two occasions when a majority blocked states from enforcing certain abortion-related laws.  While a professor, Barrett was part of Faculty for Life, an anti-abortion group at Notre Dame.  

Barrett has stated she is not beholden to stare decisis, a legal principle requiring judges to follow previous court rulings.  Most concerning for Democrats is the impact that a refusal to adhere to the principle of stare decisis might have with respect to the landmark Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion – especially as President Trump promised to nominate justices who would overturn Roe.

Regarding immigration, Barrett dissented in  a case that blocked President Trump’s “public charge” rule, which would have made it difficult for immigrants who rely on public assistance to get green cards.  On healthcare, Barrett has criticized Chief Justice Roberts’ upholding of the Affordable Care Act, but remarked during her hearings that she is, “not hostile to the ACA.”  Barrett also dissented on a gun rights case, arguing that a white-collar felon had a Second Amendment right to carry a gun.  Additionally, she served on the board of trustees of private Christian schools with “anti-gay policies,” according to the Associated Press.  Justice Barrett’s record is currently gathering much attention, as cases regarding immigration, 

the ACA, same-sex couples, and other issues are on the Supreme Court’s upcoming docket, as are crucial cases about absentee ballots.

“Based on her career in the courts and the circuit, Amy Coney Barrett appears to be more than qualified to sit on the Supreme Court and, politics aside, a worthy successor to Justice Ginsburg” said Mr. Muhlbauer, a social studies teacher at Schreiber.

Justice Barrett is President Trump’s third confirmation.  Trump described her as a “woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials, and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution.”  

Justice Barrett received much Republican support at her hearings.  Additionally, the American Bar Association deemed her well-qualified.  Democrats, however, have called the hearings hypocritical.  In March 2016, President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill a vacant seat on the Supreme Court, but the Republican Senate (led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell) refused to hold hearings, claiming the nomination was too close to the Presidential election.  Now, with a nomination and confirmation far closer to the election, while Americans are actively voting, Democrats called out Barrett’s uniquely fast confirmation as hypocritical.

“Barrett’s confirmation shows a blatant disrespect for the office [Senators] hold and a disregard towards issues such as COVID-19 that they could be spending time on rather than rushing to confirm her,” said sophomore Susanna Kaiserman.  

Critics also view Barrett’s conservatism as the antithesis to the late Justice Ginsburg’s liberalism.  

“The Republican Party has once again committed judicial malpractice, and the consequences are the rights of millions of Americans,” said senior Ben Rotko.   

However, others feel she is a healthy choice.

“I was pleasantly surprised that President Trump nominated a woman to honor Justice Ginsburg,” said junior Jack Lieblein. 

Hypocritical or not, Justice Barrett’s confirmation process has come to a close.  After unsuccessfully attempting to postpone or adjourn her hearings, all ten Democratic Senators on the Judiciary Committee simply boycotted the vote, standing outside the Capitol with protest signs.  McConnell waived regulations requiring at least two minority party members to be present, and so, on Oct. 22, the vote passed, 12-0.  

Once on the Senate floor, the debate was skipped, and, due to precedent set by Senator McConnell during Justice Gorsuch’s confirmation, only 51 votes were needed to confirm the new justice.  The Oct. 26 final confirmation vote was 52-48, along party lines, with one Republican senator, Maine’s Susan Collins, voting with the Democratic minority. 

Justice Barrett was sworn in one day after her confirmation, officially swinging the Court to a 6-3 conservative majority.  As the youngest Justice on the Court, Barrett’s tenure could influence critical decisions for years to come.  With Democrats angry and Republicans thrilled, her confirmation is yet another partisan issue added to the already-in-progress presidential election’s mounting tensions.