It’s announced! President Trump’s nominee to replace liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is Judge Amy Coney Barrett, U.S. Court of Appeals for Chicago’s Seventh Circuit. Barrett, a conservative-minded judge, will rise above what will be a brutal Senate hearing to be confirmed as quickly as possible. And she will do it with dignity. So, what should you know about this woman?
Judge Barrett, 48, was born and raised in New Orleans giving her a southern culture background as well as a hint of southern/Cajun accent. She married Jesse Barrett in 1999 after they both graduated from Notre Dame Law School. Jesse is a former assistant U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Indiana and is now in private practice. They have seven children, ages 8 to 19, two of which are adopted Haitians, and one is a special needs child. Amy also grew up as one of seven siblings.
The Barretts are devout Catholics and very committed to their faith in Jesus. They are long-time members of the “People of Praise,” a largely Catholic organization of small groups that meets regularly to share their unity in Christ, commitment to one another, and Christian experiences. The organization’s literature describes itself as a charismatic Christian community.
Before President Trump nominated her to the 7th Circuit in 2017, Barrett was a law professor at Notre Dame for nearly two decades. She received the “distinguished professor of the year” award three times at Notre Dame. Her scholarship focuses on constitutional law, originalism, textualism, and statutory interpretation. She adamantly opposes the “living Constitution” approach to legal rulings.
During her tenure as professor at Notre Dame, she was a member of the Faculty of Life, an antiabortion group. Barrett was quoted in a 2013 magazine article as saying “life begins at conception.” She also stated that justices should not be strictly bound by Supreme Court precedents leaving open the possibility that she could vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.
The 2017 Senate hearing for her appointment to the 7th Circuit was noted for its questioning of her strong Christian faith being perhaps incompatible with blind justice on the Court. An often-cited comment of Senator Dianne Feinstein was, “You have a long history of believing that your religious beliefs should prevail. The dogma lives loudly within you.” Yet, Justice Ginsburg often spoke freely of how her Judaism shaped her thinking on the Court, and no one gave it a second thought.
Judge Barrett will be the fifth woman to serve on the Supreme Court and only the second woman justice nominated by a Republican president. Sandra Day O’Connor was nominated by President Reagan, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg by President Clinton. She will join President Obama nominees, Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor on the bench as the youngest of all justices. She could potentially be on the court for over forty years.