Who is Amy Barrett and what does her appointment mean for the US?

Who is Amy Barrett and what does her nomination mean for the US?


Over the weekend, US President Donald Trump denied the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s “most fervent wish” that she “not be replaced until a new president is installed” when he nominated conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett as the next Justice of the US Supreme Court.

If appointed, 48-year old Barrett will be the youngest justice on the highest court in America. She will also be the third female Justice, joining Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan on the stand. Republicans are eager for Barrett to be confirmed before the presidential election on 3 November.

“I am truly humbled by the prospect of serving on the Supreme Court,” Barrett said in her speech on Saturday. “Should I be confirmed, I will be mindful of who came before me.”

She went on to praise Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for “smashing glass ceilings” and “winning the admiration of women across the country and all over the world.” 

Barrett has been a professor at Notre Dame Law School in Indiana since 2002 and was appointed in 2017 by Trump to the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. She was shortlisted for the Supreme Court vacancy two years ago; a position that was ultimately filled by Brett Kavanaugh.

Republicans, who currently control the Senate, have indicated they have the votes to fill the vacancy, which would make Barrett Trump’s third appointment for the Supreme Court. The decision would see a potential for a long-lasting conservative Supreme Court majority to repeal the Affordable Care Act and reverse the right to an abortion in America. Joe Biden has since echoed his call that the winner of the presidential election should get to appoint the new justice.

Who is she?
Barrett grew up in Metairie, a small suburb of New Orleans, the eldest daughter of Linda Coney, a high school French teacher and Michael Coney, an attorney for Shell Oil Company. Barrett was a precocious child, going on to study English literature at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee and graduating magna cum laude in 1994. 

Barrett went on to study law at the Notre Dame Law School on a full-tuition scholarship where she was the executive editor of the Notre Dame Law Review and graduated summa cum laude in 1997. After law school, she spent two years clerking for Judge Laurence Silberman of the U.S Court of Appeals for the D.C Circuit, then for Justice Antonin Scalia of the U. S Supreme Court, who she called her ‘mentor’.

A mother of seven children, two of whom she adopted from Haiti with her husband, Barrett is an observant Catholic and a member of a small, tight knit, authoritarian internally structured nondenominational parachurch community People of Praise.

 In 2015, she signed a letter to the Synod on the Family which stated that the Church’s teachings on marriage and family are “founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman.”

Former California congresswoman Katie Hill last week Tweeted that Judge Barrett “comes from a religion that is straight out of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’”.

Hill accused Barrett of holding “anti-women, anti-LGBTQ positions, which are rooted in her religion” and saying they would “factor into her decisions on the court.”

Hill, who runs a political action committee supporting Democratic women, said in an email that her political action committee, HER Time, was working to fight against Barrett’s confirmation, and that concerns over her ability to judge fairly “will impose her faith on the American people” were legitimate issues up for debate.

“Someone’s religion is important when their religious beliefs are part of the way they make decisions that come before that court,” Hill wrote.

Democratic allied groups have since come out in opposition to Trump’s nomination of Barrett. The liberal group Demand Justice sent an email to its supporters urging them to “chip in immediately to put pressure on Senators to vote NO on confirming Amy Coney Barrett.”

The group pledged to spend $10 million in their attempts to block the confirmation of any justice before January’s presidential inauguration. The Democratic Political Action Committee American Bridge, released an opposition research file highlighting Judge Barrett’s affiliations with religious conservative groups that oppose abortion rights.  The research revealed that in the late 1990s, a scholarly paper Judge Barrett helped to write about how the Catholic Church’s campaign against capital punishment “puts Catholic judges in a bind” between their oath to enforce the death penalty and their obligation “to adhere to their church’s teaching on moral matters.”

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden believes that appointing Barrett could lead her to cast a vote to dislodge the Obamacare health law.
Barrett could be on the court’s bench for oral arguments on November 10 in a case in which the Republicans are seeking to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (aka Obamacare.) Trump was unsuccessful in repealing Obamacare when Republicans controlled the Senate and House of Representatives, and Republicans have not yet said what would replace the law.

“It’s no mystery what is happening here. President Trump is trying to throw out the Affordable Care Act,” Biden said. “He has been trying to do this for four years.”

Biden linked the status of the law to the global coronavirus pandemic, which has so far claimed more than 200,000 Americans. “The clear focus is: this is about your healthcare. This is about whether or not the ACA will exist. This is about whether or not pre-existing conditions will continue to be covered,” Biden said.

“This is about whether or not a woman can be charged more for the same procedure as a man,” Biden said. “This is about people’s healthcare in the middle of a pandemic.”

On Sunday, Trump tweeted “Obamacare will be replaced with a MUCH better, and FAR cheaper, alternative”.

Sadly, there is little expectation that Democrats will be able to stop the Republican-controlled Senate from confirming the judge, and Democrats will find it hard to prevent a speedy vote on Judge Barrett before the election on November 3rd. 

Abortion Rights
One of the most contentious issues constantly and publicly adjudicated in the US is that of abortion rights. Many Democrats believe that Barrett’s ascension to the Supreme Court poses a risk to Roe v Wade – the 1973 ruling that ensured abortion rights.

In 2012, Barrett signed a letter that went against a provision of the Obamacare, that would have forced insurance companies to offer coverage for contraception. In the past decade, a huge number of of anti-abortion laws have been passed in several states across America; many based on a harmful model legislation developed by anti-abortion groups. Despite Roe v Wade being a highly political contentious issue, its popularity with the general public has remained stable since the late 1980s. Just last year, surveys found that between 60 per cent and 77 per cent support Roe v Wade.

Judge Barrett’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin on October 12.

If confirmed, she will join John G. Roberts, Jr., Clarence Thomas, Stephen G. Breyer, Samuel A. Alito, Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh on the bench, as well as Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Picture: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

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