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Trump nominates law professor Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court

| Saturday, September 26, 2020

President Donald Trump nominated Notre Dame law professor Amy Coney Barrett to be the newest Supreme Court justice Saturday, replacing the late liberal-leaning Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

In a press conference Saturday, Trump said Barretts qualifications are “unsurpassed,” and he expects her confirmation hearing to be “extremely uncontroversial.”

I pledge to discharge the responsibilities of this job to the best of my ability,” Barrett promised during the announcement.

Barrett currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, after having been confirmed in 2017. She has been teaching law at the University since 2002 and was named professor of the year by three of the law school’s graduating classes.

The nominee attended Rhodes College for undergraduate, where she received a B.A. in English literature, and she earned her J.D. from Notre Dame. She was named a Kiley Fellow and earned the Hoynes Prize, which is the law school’s highest honor.

After graduating from Notre Dame, Barrett clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Like Scalia, Barrett is a strict originalist and textualist, believing in the importance of viewing the law through the eyes of the founding fathers as well as the public the Constitution was created to serve.

“If a judge parts from the text in the service of a more general purpose, that judge risks undoing the very compromise that made the enactment of the statute possible,” she said in a lecture in 2018 at Notre Dame.

Maria Leontaras | The Observer
Law professor Amy Coney Barrett spoke at a women’s empowerment brunch March 1 in the Dahnke Ballroom.

Originally from New Orleans, La., Barrett currently lives in South Bend, Ind. with her husband, Jesse, whom she met in law school, and commutes to Chicago for her judgeship. The couple has seven children, two of which they adopted from Haiti. 

A devout Catholic, Barrett has spoken on being both a judge and a Catholic. At a 2019 event hosted by the Notre Dame Club of D.C., she mentioned the lessons she learned from Scalia, a fellow Catholic, and described him as “a man of faith.” 

“He took a lot of criticism from many quarters for the values that he had and the choices that he made, his Catholicism and his faith,” she said at the event

As a part of Notre Dame’s Faculty for Life, Barrett signed a letter in 2015 addressed to Catholic bishops affirming the teachings of the Church, including the “value of human life from conception to natural death.” 

Barrett’s faith has raised concerns in the past as opponents have questioned whether Barrett can set her religious beliefs aside and remain unbiased while judging.

At Barrett’s confirmation hearing to serve on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017, Sen. Dianne Feinstein questioned whether her faith would influence her decisions on the bench. Barrett discussed her faith during the hearing but said her religious beliefs would not affect her decisions as a judge.

If confirmed, Barrett would be the fifth woman to serve on the Supreme Court. At 48 years old, replacing Ginsburg with Barrett will reinforce a conservative majority in the court for years to come.

University President Fr. John Jenkins congratulated Barrett on her nomination in a press release Saturday.

“An alumna and a faculty member of Notre Dame Law School, Judge Barrett has epitomized the University’s commitment to teaching, scholarship, justice and service to society,” he said. “She is a person of the utmost integrity who, as a jurist, acts first and foremost in accord with the law.

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