President Donald Trump on Saturday selected Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the Supreme Court seat left empty by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just one week ago.
Trump described the pick as “one of his highest and most important duties” as president, noting that it was the third Supreme Court pick.
The president made the announcement in the Rose Garden, thrilling conservative guests who were present and gave her a standing ovation when the president appeared with Barrett.
“She is a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials, and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution,” Trump said while introducing Barrett.
Barrett thanked the president for the honor of serving on the court, should she be confirmed by the Senate.
“I love the United States, and I love the United States Constitution,” she said. “I am truly humbled by the prospect of serving on the Supreme Court.”
The president’s choice demonstrates he did not waver from the idea of choosing Barrett to replace Ginsburg with another woman on the Supreme Court.
In 2018, Barrett was among the top four nominees that Trump met with to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy. He ultimately selected Justice Brett Kavanaugh for the job but reportedly viewed Barrett as an ideal choice for the replacement of Ginsburg in the future.
The president ignored pressure from some forces within the White House and in Washington to consider Florida Federal Appeals Court Judge Barbara Lagoa to earn additional political points in the state.
The president’s choice of Barrett marks a victory for conservative groups, especially pro-life and pro-Second Amendment groups who viewed her legal decisions and public comments as encouraging for future rulings.
Barrett, age 48, is a Roman Catholic and the mother of seven children, two of them adopted from Haiti. Her youngest child has special needs.
Born and raised in New Orleans, Barrett attended and graduated from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, where she studied literature, before attending Notre Dame Law School on a full scholarship. At Notre Dame, she served as the executive editor of the Notre Dame Law Review, graduated first in her class in 1997, and earned the Hoynes Prize, the law school’s top honor.
Barrett is a self-described constitutional “originalist,” arguing that a judge should not depart from the meaning of the language used by the Founders in the Constitution.
“We agreed to live by the Constitution until it’s lawfully changed,” she said at a Hillsdale College event in 2019. “And judges can’t change it. That’s not Democratic.”
Barrett clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia from 1998 to 1999 after graduating top of her class from Notre Dame Law School.
“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,” she wrote in the Texas Law Review in 2013.
She also wrote about interpreting the Constitution in a 2017 legal article.
“A faithful judge resists the temptation to conflate the meaning of the Constitution with the judge’s own political preference; judges who give in to that temptation exceed the limits of their power by holding a statute unconstitutional when it is not,” she wrote.
Barrett was a professor at Notre Dame Law School before she was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in November 2017. All 49 of her fellow faculty members at Notre Dame Law School praised Barrett for her professionalism and judicial mind in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“We have a wide range of political views, as well as commitments to different approaches to judicial methodology and judicial craft. We are united, however, in our judgment about Amy,” they wrote in a letter submitted for her 2017 Senate hearings.
Before clerking for Scalia, Barrett clerked for Judge Laurence Silberman on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. She then practiced law at Miller, Cassidy, Larroca & Lewin in D.C. and was a visiting associate professor at George Washington University Law School before returning to teach at Notre Dame in 2002.
At Notre Dame, Barrett received the “Distinguished Professor of the Year” award three times and taught classes on constitutional law, civil procedure, evidence, federal courts, federal litigation, and statutory interpretation. Her scholarly work has appeared in numerous academic journals.
Her 2017 confirmation hearing for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals rallied religious conservatives to her side after Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) lectured her for practicing her Catholic faith.
“You have a long history of believing that your religious beliefs should prevail,” Feinstein told her. “The dogma lives loudly within you.”
Barrett replied, “If you’re asking whether I take my faith seriously and I’m a faithful Catholic, I am, although I would stress that my personal church affiliation or my religious belief would not bear in the discharge of my duties as a judge.”
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops sharply criticized Feinstein’s attack as “contrary to the Constitution” and un-American.
Here is a look at some of Barrett’s positions on legal issues:
In her dissent on the 2019 case Kanter v. Barr, Barrett asserted that the Second Amendment “confers an individual right, intimately connected with the natural right of self-defense.”
She argued that possessing a gun was an individual right, not simply a civic right, and a nonviolent convicted felon should have the right to own a firearm.
History is consistent with common sense: it demonstrates that legislatures have the power to prohibit dangerous people from possessing guns. But that power extends only to people who are dangerous. Founding-era legislatures did not strip felons of the right to bear arms simply because of their status as felons. Nor have the parties introduced any evidence that founding-era legislatures imposed virtue-based restrictions on the right; such restrictions applied to civic rights like voting and jury service, not to individual rights like the right to possess a gun.
She also voted to rehear a ruling on a law requiring parents to be notified when a girl under 18 was seeking an abortion.
Barrett has not ruled on an abortion case.
In June 2020, she dissented in the decision of Cook County v. Wolf, defending Trump’s public charge law denying permanent residence status to immigrants receiving public welfare benefits.
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Trump’s authority despite the circuit court ruling against the administration.
In a 2017 law review article, she reviewed a book by Randy Barnett, who criticized Chief Justice John Roberts’ ruling upholding President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
Barnett is surely right that deference to a democratic majority should not supersede a judge’s duty to apply clear text. That is true, incidentally, even if one subscribes to the collective view of popular sovereignty, for a judge who adopts an interpretation inconsistent with the text fails to enforce the statute that commanded majority support.
In February of 2012, Barrett joined Catholic and religious professors publicly criticizing Obama’s administration for requiring religious institutions to provide employee insurance for abortions, sterilization, and birth control.
“This is a grave violation of religious freedom and cannot stand,” the letter read.
Commitment to Due Process in Sexual Assault Cases on Campus:
In 2019, Barrett led a reversal of a lower court’s decision to dismiss a case brought against Purdue University by a male student who was suspended and lost his ROTC scholarship after he was accused of sexual assault.
The man was accused by his ex-girlfriend of groping her in her sleep and was suspended by the university without cross-examination of the allegation.
The Seventh Circuit panel voted unanimously to revisit the case.