Today, President Trump announced his nomination of federal appeals court judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The Significance of Barrett’s Nomination
If Barrett is confirmed, she would likely ensure a reliable conservative majority on the Supreme Court for decades. Barrett is only 48 (she would be the youngest member of the current court), and two other conservative jurists — Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — are both in their 50s. These three conservatives would make up a third of the body.
If Barrett is confirmed, she would likely ensure a reliable conservative majority on the Supreme Court for decades.
Since the 1990s, the Supreme Court has increasingly split 5-4 along ideological lines on controversial issues, such as gay marriage, the Affordable Care Act, and gun rights. Adding another conservative justice would likely secure a 6-3 lean towards the right.
Who Is Amy Coney Barrett?
Barret was raised in Metairie, LA. Her father was an attorney for Shell Oil, and her mother was a homemaker. After graduating from St. Mary’s Dominican High School, Barrett attended Rhodes College in Tennessee and then Notre Dame Law School. She graduated with honors from both.
Barrett then clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Afterward, she practiced law in Washington, D.C. where she litigated constitutional, criminal, and commercial cases in both trial and appellate courts.
In 2002, Barrett joined the faculty of Notre Dame Law School, where she taught and researched in the areas of federal courts, constitutional law, and statutory interpretation. Her scholarship has been published in leading legal journals, and she was chosen as "Distinguished Professor of the Year" by three of the law school's graduating classes.
Barrett taught law at the Notre Dame Law School for 15 years.
In 2017, Barrett was confirmed as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. She has written about 100 opinions and "several telling dissents in which Barrett displayed her clear and consistent conservative bent," as The Associated Press comments on her judicial record.
She is married to Jesse Barrett, a former prosecutor now in private practice. The couple has seven children, one with Down syndrome and two adopted from Haiti.
Where Does Barrett Stand on Abortion?
Both political parties are anxious to know how Barrett will impact abortion rights. Barrett is a practicing Catholic, who, during her appeals court confirmation hearing, said that as an appellate judge she would “follow all Supreme Court precedent without fail,” which would include Roe v. Wade.
“I would never impose my own personal convictions upon the law,” she stated.
“I would never impose my own personal convictions upon the law."
In a discussion at Jacksonville University, Barrett said, "I don't think the core case, Roe's core holding that women have a right to an abortion, I don't think that would change. But I think the question of whether people can get very late-term abortions, you know, how many restrictions can be put on clinics, I think that will change."
In 2016, Barrett suggested that the court would most likely leave the basic right to abortion in place, but allow states the scope to make abortion difficult to obtain.
Where Does Barrett Stand on the Affordable Care Act?
Affordable Care Act proponents are also concerned about Barrett’s confirmation to the bench. The week after the November election, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a third challenge to the law. In 2017, Barrett criticized Chief Justice John Roberts' reasoning in upholding the Affordable Care Act.
"Chief Justice Roberts pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute."
She wrote, "Chief Justice Roberts pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute. He construed the penalty imposed on those without health insurance as a tax, which permitted him to sustain the statute as a valid exercise of the taxing power; had he treated the payment as the statute did — as a penalty — he would have had to invalidate the statute as lying beyond Congress's commerce power."
Where Does Barrett Stand on Following Legal Precedent?
In a 2013 law review article, Barrett prioritized basing judgment on the Constitution over Supreme Court precedents. She wrote, "I tend to agree with those who say that a justice's duty is to the Constitution and that it is thus more legitimate for her to enforce her best understanding of the Constitution rather than a precedent she thinks clearly in conflict with it."
How Likely Is It That Barrett Will Be Confirmed before the Election?
There are just 38 days until Election Day. While that’s a small window, it wouldn’t be unprecedented for Barrett to be confirmed. CNBC tracked the speed of SCOTUS judge confirmations since the Ford administration:
The two justices who ere successfully confirmed in such a short period where confirmed unanimously — which is highly unlikely to happen in Barrett’s case.
The Republicans will likely have to rush through an uphill battle to get Barrett confirmed before the election.