Trump Picks Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme Court Justice

Kathleen Doheny

September 28, 2020

Amy Coney Barrett. Sipa/AP

Sept. 25, 2020 – President Donald Trump on Saturday nominated Amy Coney Barrett, 48, a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago since 2017, to the Supreme CourtIf confirmed by the Senate, she would replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Sept. 18.

Trump made the announcement from the White House.

"Today it is my honor to nominate one of our nation's most gifted and brilliant legal minds to the Supreme Court," he told the crowd, which included Barrett's husband Jesse and the couple's 7 children. 

He cited her ''unyielding loyalty to the Constitution" and noted her many achievements.

Long viewed as a front-runner for the post, Barrett is a Republican conservative and a practicing Roman Catholic. She and her family live in South Bend, IN, and she commutes to Chicago.

Beyond her professional achievements, Trump called her a "profoundly devoted mother. She opened her home and her heart and adopted 2 children from Haiti." He mentioned her bond with her youngest child, who has Down's. "If confirmed, she will be the first woman of school age children ever to serve on the Supreme Court."

Trump called on Senate members present to provide a timely and fair hearing, noting that ''her record is beyond reproach."

Invited by Trump to say a few words, Barrett said she was deeply honored ''by the confidence you have placed in me.  I love the U.S. and I love the U.S. Constitution. If confirmed, I will be mindful of those who have come before me."

Noting that the flags were still at half-staff in honor of Ginsburg, Barrett said of her: "She not only broke glass ceilings, she smashed them. Her life of public service serves as an example to us all."

She noted Ginsburg's friendship with the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, for whom she clerked. "They disagreed in print without rancor in person.'' Arguments ''need not destroy affection." 

Of Scalia, she said: "His judicial philosophy is mine, too. A judge must apply the law as written."

A Louisiana native, she earned her bachelor's degree in English literature from Rhodes College and her law degree from Notre Dame. She clerked for Laurence Silberman at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and then for Scalia.

She was in private practice in Washington, D.C., and a fellow at the George Washington University School of Law. For 15 years, she was on faculty at Notre Dame Law School.

With the death of Ginsburg, the Supreme Court currently has six men and two women justices. Five have been appointed by Republican presidents, regarded as the conservative wing, and three by Democratic presidents, regarded as the liberal wing.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Stephen Breyer were appointed by Democratic presidents, while Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh were named by Republican presidents.

Barrett would change the current 5-3 balance of conservatives to liberals to 6-3.

Upcoming Supreme Court Arguments

A case that could determine the future of the Affordable Care Act is among several health-related and equal-rights related cases on the docket when the Supreme Court term begins Oct. 5:

  • California v. Texas, Nov. 10. This case involves the Affordable Care Act, better known as ObamaCare, signed by President Barack Obama in 2010. In 2018, 20 states filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Texas, challenging the requirement for individuals to have health coverage set down by ACA. It claimed the law was unconstitutional. A district court judge ruled the law invalid. A group of states asked the Supreme Court for review, arguing that there was not a legal right to challenge the law and that the law was not unconstitutional.

  • Fulton vs. City of Philadelphia, Nov. 4. This case dates back to 2018, when the city of Philadelphia's Department of Human Services investigated two of its foster care provider agents for potential violations of the city anti-discrimination laws. One of the agencies involved, the Catholic Social Services, would not certify same-sex couples as foster parents, so the city stopped referring foster children to the agencies. The agency filed suit, citing violations of its rights under the First Amendment and the state's Religious Freedom Protection Act. The circuit court denied the request.

Barrett's Take

With much discussion about how Barrett might vote on controversial cases, here is information on her previous decisions and her interviews about the topics.

Abortion. In an interview in 2016, Barrett talked about the potential for changes to Roe v. Wade.

"I don't think the right to abortion would change," Barrett said during a lecture at Jacksonville University in Florida.  But some of the restrictions might. "States have imposed restrictions on abortions and I think the question is how much freedom the court is willing to let states have in regulating abortion," she said.  

For instance, she says the question might be how much freedom the Supreme Court is willing to let states have in regulating abortion.

Marriage. Barrett signed a letter to a group of Catholic bishops in 2015. In it, the women pledged fidelity to Catholic Church doctrines, including the belief that marriage and family are ''founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman."

Interpreting the constitution. Barrett is viewed as an originalist. Originalists interpret the Constitution and base their ruling on what they believe the original intents of the Constitution's authors were. 

Her faith and her duties. In the hearing for Barrett's nomination for the 7th Circuit, Sen. Dianne Feinstein expressed concern that her devout Catholicism might influence her rulings, saying, "The dogma lives loudly within you." Barrett emphasized that her faith would not have a bearing on her decisions.

SOURCES: "Amy Coney Barrett," "California v. Texas," "Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania."

Letter to Synod Fathers from Catholic Women, Oct. 1, 2015.

Supreme Court of the United States: "October term 2020."

Supreme Court of the United States: "Justices."

NPR: "Who Is Amy Coney Barrett, Front-Runner For the Supreme Court Nomination?"

New York Times: "Trump Selects Amy Coney Barrett to Fill Ginsburg's Seat on the Supreme Court."

Hillsdale College: "Conversation with Amy Coney  Barrett," 2019.

Jacksonville University: Hesburgh Lecture,2016.

Notre Dame Law School: Amy Coney Barrett.

Senate Judiciary Committee: Confirmation hearing, Sept.6, 2017.

White House Rose Garden announcement, Sept. 26, 2020.