by Julia Wong, Staff Writer, November 2020
With the tragic passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the United States has been forced to address the next great partisan battle for national domination, this time on the hallowed steps of the Supreme Court. Amy Coney Barrett is a traditionally conservative, strict constructionist. She was confirmed as the 115th Supreme Court Justice on October 26, setting a 6-3 balance in favor of the Republican Party. Everything about the timing of her confirmation, personal life, and history as a judge made this a unique political event, and an incredibly divisive move on the part of the Trump Administration. Yet, as the process has come to a close, many speculate whether this will be a turning point in American opinion or fade into irrelevance.
A former professor at Notre Dame School of Law, Barrett was nominated to the Seventh Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals under the Trump Administration. During the original confirmation hearings, one of the greatest concerns was how her Catholicism may play into her judicial decision-making. The answer lies in her past rulings.
Her previous cases provide insight into her code of morality and style as a judge. In the past, Barrett has ruled against appeals for workplace discrimination on the basis of race, defended President Trump’s controversial immigration policy, and dissented against the majority opinion that non-violent felons should be prohibited from possessing firearms. Her greatest controversy, however, has been tied in with her religion-inspired opinions on abortion.
While she has declined to answer how she may rule on an appeal for the revoking of Roe v. Wade, in 2018, Barrett voted to uphold Indiana’s law requiring the cremation or burial of fetal remains. She also upheld Chicago’s “bubble ordinance” forbidding protestors from congregating around and outside abortion clinics without the consent of the establishment.
In spite of the many Democrat attacks on Barrett’s history, upon careful examination of her substantial rulings, she truly embodies the epitome of strict constructionist. She is self-identified textualist and originalist, following the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s beliefs about applying the law and interpreting the constitution exactly as it was written.
While she may not be the liberal originalist Justice Ginsberg was, Democrats in Congress realize that Barrett doesn’t present an egregiously offensive history like Kavanaugh. However, they retain the belief the seat should not be a conservative pick given the close timing to the election and hypocrisy compared to how the Republican Senate dealt with the Obama administration.
My issue with Barrett is her disrespect for the process of judicial selection and refusal to be transparent on how she may act serving the people. Any segment of the confirmation hearing captures her deflecting key questions, and in turn denying congressmen and the American public knowledge of how she would rule on controversial issues. Her resistance to openly stating her stance implies knowledge that her opinions do not represent the American people and would only further outrage the public.
Barrett was aware she was not the American public’s choice. Trump was aware Barrett was not the American public’s choice. Yet, as our newest and youngest justice, she now holds one of the most powerful positions in one of the world’s strongest courts.
In our modern, gridlocked two-party system, the Supreme Court’s power to interpret the law and further conduct judicial review leave the institution with unbelievable power to dictate the legislation that influences us all: and with a 6-3 balance, minority rights are likely under the greatest threat they have seen since the Taft Court era.