Jim Hartman: Who is Amy Coney Barrett?
President Trump’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court will be hard for Senate Democrats to oppose based upon her qualifications.
Barrett’s extraordinary life — as a distinguished law professor, as a highly regarded appellate judge, and as a woman who will become the first Supreme Court justice with school age children — makes her a difficult target.
The 48-year-old Barrett grew up in Metairie, Louisiana, attending a Catholic girls’ high school in New Orleans. She graduated magna cum laude from Rhodes College, a small liberal arts college in Tennessee.
After graduating from Rhodes, Barrett went to law school at Notre Dame on a full-tuition scholarship. She excelled there as well: She graduated summa cum laude in 1997, served as editor of the school’s law review, and finished top student in her class.
Barrett then held two important judicial clerkships, first with U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Laurence Silberman, followed by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
After leaving her Supreme Court clerkship, she spent four years in private practice before returning to Notre Dame to teach law. During 15 years as a law professor, she was both a prolific academic writer and was named “distinguished professor of the year” three times.
Trump nominated Barrett to the Chicago-based 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017.
She had the unanimous support of her 49 Notre Dame colleagues, holding a wide range of political views.
Despite Barrett explicitly declaring at her confirmation hearing that her Catholic faith does not dictate how she decides cases, California’s Sen. Dianne Feinstein declared Barrett’s beliefs troubled her. “The dogma lives loudly within you,” Feinstein infamously said.
While Senate Democrats now extol Joe Biden as a profoundly decent man guided by his Catholic faith, they demonstrated a double standard on Barrett’s religious beliefs in her confirmation. Barrett was confirmed to the 7th Circuit by a vote of 55-43, with three Democratic senators crossing party lines to support her.
If confirmed, Barrett would become the sixth center-right justice on the Supreme Court. The court dynamics will change. Chief Justice John Roberts would no longer be a “swing vote,” with only three remaining liberals on the court.
On the 7th Circuit, Barrett has expressed a more expansive reading of the Second Amendment’s protections of the right to bear arms.
Supreme Court 5-to-4 decisions in 2008 and 2010 recognized an individual’s right to keep a handgun for self-defense. The court has declined to take up a major gun case since.
Meanwhile, lower courts have upheld the vast majority of state and local laws regulating arms and ammunition, despite four justices — Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh — holding broad views of the Second Amendment.
On the Supreme Court, Barrett would form a majority of five to stop treating the Second Amendment as a constitutional orphan.
Democrats will portray Barrett as a “radical” who would dismiss precedent — particularly on abortion. This is what they say about every conservative. Her record on the 7th Circuit belies that misrepresentation.
Those predicting repeal of Roe v. Wade will be disappointed. Roe, supplemented later by Planned Parenthood v. Casey , embedded abortion rights in precedent. The right to an abortion in now settled law.
In 2013 Barrett forecast as “very unlikely at this time” that the court would overturn Roe. Clarence Thomas is the only current justice calling for Roe’s repeal.
The real legal battleground will be over the limits of state regulation such as late-term abortion.
Democrats now demagogically claim that Barrett has been nominated to overturn Obamacare to “strip away pre-existing conditions protections.” A legal challenge is being heard by the Supreme Court on Nov. 10.
Their fear-mongering about Barrett is baseless. Court experts conclude this dubious lawsuit has almost no chance of overturning all provisions of Obamacare — it’s a red herring.
Republican senators should do their duty and confirm an excellent nominee.
Jim Hartman is an attorney residing in Genoa. E-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.