WASHINGTON — Eight days after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, President Donald Trump announced Sept. 26 that Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a judge on the Chicago-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, is his nominee to fill that seat.
The president said he was honored to nominate Barrett whom he described as “one of the nation’s most gifted legal minds” to the court and praised her for her loyalty to the Constitution.
Barrett, for her part, said she was “humbled by the prospect of serving in the Supreme Court,” and said if she were confirmed, she would always be mindful she would be following in Ginsburg’s footsteps.
On the day of her nomination, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin tweeted, “Congratulations to Judge Amy Coney Barrett, now nominated to the Supreme Court. May God bless Judge Coney Barrett and her beautiful family with grace and peace in the challenging days to come.”
Trump’s pick is not a surprise. The 48-year-old Catholic and law professor at the University of Notre Dame was reported to be on the president’s short list of nominees just hours after Ginsburg’s death and news outlets began announcing she was the likely pick a day ahead of the official announcement.
In 2017, Barrett, who had clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia, was nominated by Trump to serve on the 7th Circuit in Chicago and she garnered support from some for her responses to the line of questioning she received in her confirmation hearing from Senate Democrats that focused on her Catholic faith.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, told her: “The dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s a concern,” to which Barrett responded: “It’s never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions, whether they arise from faith or anywhere else, on the law.”
After this interaction, several Catholic leaders spoke out against pointed questions about Barrett’s faith.
Feinstein had been referring to Barrett’s speeches and a 1998 article she co-wrote about the role of Catholic judges in death penalty cases. The senator also questioned Barrett about upholding Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that made abortion legal.
When Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, asked Barrett if she considered herself an “orthodox” Catholic, Barrett said: “If you’re asking whether I take my faith seriously and am a faithful Catholic, I am. Although I would stress that my present church affiliation or my religious beliefs would not bear in the discharge of my duties as a judge.”
She ended up getting bipartisan support and was confirmed with a 55-43 vote.
Another concern expressed by those opposed to Barrett’s nomination is that she could be a vote for dismantling Roe v Wade.
Some in the Notre Dame community said Barrett would be a fair-minded justice, not guided by ideology but by her strict “originalist” reading of the U.S. Constitution.
“One thing that really stands out is how fair minded her scholarship is. And she doesn’t go in with an ax to grind. She doesn’t go in with an ideological sort of conclusion in search of justifications. She goes in with a genuine, open, scholarly mind, tackling a question,” Notre Dame law professor Carter Snead told WBEZ, Chicago public radio.
Snead also said he does not believe there is anyone in the country “more well qualified than she is to be on the Supreme Court because of her combination of brilliance, her work ethic, her open mindedness, her charitable manner of engaging with people.”
Barrett has been married for more than 18 years to Jesse Barrett, a partner in a South Bend law firm who spent 13 years as a federal prosecutor in Indiana. They have seven children, two of which were adopted from Haiti.
She now faces the Senate process which includes public hearings, a committee vote and the Senate floor vote where a simple majority, or 50 votes, is needed to confirm her as the next Supreme Court justice. The Republicans have 53 seats in the current Senate, and if needed, Vice President Mike Pence could break a tie vote.
Although the exact timeline has not been set, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, has said he hopes to hold a final confirmation vote by the end of October, just days before the election.
If Barrett is confirmed as a Supreme Court justice she would be the sixth Catholic justice, joining Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor.