New Supreme Court Justice: Amy Coney Barrett

Lauren Kluttz, Writer

“I have been nominated to fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat, but no one will ever take her place.” Those were the words of Amy Coney Barrett (ACB), on the first day of her Senate confirmation hearing. Just a few days later she succeeded the late justice and was confirmed to the Supreme Court by a 52-48 vote. This was a historical vote with many firsts and for many reasons, Susan Collins was the only Republican to vote against ACB’s nomination, the whole minority party voted against the nomination, and it was that first Supreme Court confirmation, this close to an election. However, many sit back and wonder who is this woman and how did we get here?

Amy Coney Barrett is now the 103rd associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, as well as the fifth woman to ever do so. She completed her undergraduate degree in English at Rhodes College in 1994. Afterward, Barrett attended law school at the University of Notre Dame. She graduated second in her class, earning summa cum laude. From 1998 to 1999, she served as a law clerk to former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Barrett returned to Notre Dame in 2002 to teach civil procedure, constitutional law & statutory procedure. Most recently, Barrett was a judge on the U.S Court of Appeals for the 7th circuit of Indiana in 2017.

While on the U.S. Court of Appeals, Barrett heard over 80 cases. Though both sides of the political spectrum have made assumptions about how she will stand on certain landmark cases, Barrett herself says she is a traditionalist. This means she strongly believes in doing things the way they were done in the past. On the other hand, Barrett published a journal entry for the University of Notre Dame in 2003 where she spoke about the idea of precedent. In the entry, Barrett explained how she felt stare decisis, as a precedent, had the potential to be unconstitutional under the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment. The fifth passage of the Bill of Rights guarantees US citizens specific rights, including not testifying against oneself, if you have been accused of committing a crime.  Stare decisis, is a precedent that influences courts to make rulings based on how they were handled in prior cases.

Barrett herself explained, in her opening statement during her senate confirmation hearing: “I believe deeply in the rule of law and the place of the Supreme Court in our Nation. I believe Americans of all backgrounds deserve an independent Supreme Court that interprets our Constitution and laws as they are written.”

Barrett is also the first mother of young children to serve in the U.S. Supreme Court. This is a title she certainly qualifies for, as she has seven children whose ages vary from 8 to 19. She adopted 17-year old Vivian and 13-year old John Peter from Haiti. Her youngest biological son has Down Syndrome. She and her husband, Jesse M. Barrett both went to Notre Dame Law school and decided to raise them in South Bend, Indiana. The family follows the Catholic religion, which Amy Coney Barrett has claimed will not affect her rulings. At only 48, Barrett will serve her life tenure for decades. It will be interesting to watch  her future unfold.