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Amy Coney Barrett | Justice is conservative

By confirming Amy Coney Barrett, a judge from the Seventh Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, as the ninth judge of the Supreme Court, the Republican-majority Senate has not only stacked the cards of American jurisprudence broadly in favour of conservative ideals, but has also ensured that in the event that the outcome of the 2020 election is decided in court, there will be one more supporter of President Donald Trump ruling on that decision.

Never in U.S. history has a Supreme Court justice been confirmed this close to an election — nearly 80 million early votes have already been cast ahead of Voting Day on November 3 — and rarely has such a confirmation come without a single vote of support from the opposition party in the Senate. Judge Barrett was confirmed almost entirely on partisan lines by a vote of 52 Republicans for and 47 Democrats against, with a single Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, crossing the floor to vote nay. The Supreme Judges are now 6-3 favouring the conservatives.

Also read: U.S. Senate to confirm Barrett for Supreme Court in highly partisan vote

On the subject of nominating justices who lack broad political support, Ms. Barrett’s confirmation brings to five the total number of U.S. Supreme Court justices out of nine who were nominated by an American President who did not win the popular vote. So, who is Ms. Barrett, the youngest judge on the Supreme Court today, whose apotheosis has tipped the scales of American justice so dramatically in one direction? Growing up in Metairie, Louisiana, just outside the vibrant city of New Orleans, Ms. Barrett attended St. Mary’s Dominican High School, a Catholic girls’ school, and in 1994 graduated from Rhodes College, a liberal arts college in Tennessee associated with the Presbyterian Church. After graduating, Ms. Barrett attended law school at Notre Dame, where her outstanding academic record by 1997 won her wide recognition and plaudits.

Political leanings

Her political leanings became apparent early, when she went on to hold two high-profile conservative clerkships, one of them with the late Supreme Court Justice and conservative stalwart Antonin Scalia, during 1998-99. Justice Scalia was a fierce opponent of the constitutional right to abortion, and Ms. Barrett’s association with him has fuelled American liberals’ fears that she now poses a grave threat to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that guaranteed abortion rights.

Also read: Supreme Court nominee will be a woman: Trump

After a few years practising law in the private sector out of Washington DC, Ms. Barrett returned to Notre Dame to lecture on the federal courts system, statutory interpretation and constitutional law. Here too, her legal acumen was recognised when she was made a full professor in 2010, recognised as the Diane and M.O. Miller II Research Chair of Law in 2014, and three times named ‘Distinguished Professor of the Year’.

While she was prolific in her legal writing throughout her 15 years as a full-time law professor, she was also noticed for joining the Federalist Society, the conservative legal group, during 2005-06 and 2014-17. Her conservative Christian leanings were also revealed in a law review article she wrote earlier, on “Catholic Judges in Capital Cases,” which studied the impact of the Catholic moral principles in U.S. laws relating to the death penalty, abortion and euthanasia. In that article, she is said to have described the prohibitions on abortion and euthanasia as “absolute” because they “take away innocent life”.

The extent of her political and religious leanings began to emerge more clearly into the spotlight when she was quizzed on this article at her Seventh Circuit confirmation hearing, principally by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, who said to Ms. Barrett in a now-viral exchange, “The conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this country.”

Today, at 48 years of age, Ms. Barrett is the youngest judge on the Supreme Court. The mother of seven, who has also been closely scrutinised for being a member of People of Praise, a charismatic Catholic sect which some say relegates women to inferior roles in its structure and society, has decades to leave her imprint on U.S. Supreme Court. The quality of justice, as Americans know it, might look very different by the time her tenure ends.

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2020 1:00:04 PM |

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