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Students share reactions to confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett

| Wednesday, October 28, 2020

On Sept. 26, Notre Dame Law School professor Judge Amy Coney Barrett was nominated by President Donald Trump for the position of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Barrett’s nomination was confirmed Monday evening, meaning she will fill the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s position. Students throughout the tri-campus community had a range of reactions to these events.

On a whole, students reacted positively to Barrett’s nomination. Several students believed that Barrett was the most qualified candidate.

“I was very impressed by the nomination,” sophomore Charles Yockey, a member of the College Republicans club, said. “I think there are few, if any, more qualified judges in the country.”

Yockey said Barrett’s qualifications bring a new perspective to the Court.

“Her interpretation of the law is a little bit different, even from some of the conservatives who currently serve,” Yockey said. 

In addition, Yockey said that Barrett’s background living in middle America also makes her a unique candidate.

“I think it brings a little bit of a sense of normalcy to the Court, which I think is a positive thing,” he said. “I think that perspective is always going to be a welcome addition.”

President of College Republicans sophomore Adam Morys also said Barrett’s background makes her a good candidate.

“Having someone on the court who’s not from Harvard or Yale as a law school graduate is really nice,” Morys said. “Having someone who’s very independent, who wants to interpret the law as written … who’s not going to be entangled in whatever political forces might be  pushing her one way or the other in Washington … I think that’s a positive thing.”

Morys said he was very happy with President Trump’s decision to nominate Barrett.

“He mentioned her as a possible pick a few years back, when Brett Kavanaugh was selected,” he said. “I was hoping that if there was ever another vacancy on the Supreme Court that she would be picked.”

Sophomore Patrick Barrett also said he believed Barrett was qualified in 2018.

“I first heard about Barrett back when Brett Kavanaugh was being nominated, and I honestly thought she was the better pick, even back then,” he said. “I was happy when I heard that she would be Trump’s next pick for Supreme Court Justice.”

He also said he likes how Barrett infuses her faith into politics.

“As a Catholic living in America, it is nearly impossible to find a person in government who has views similar to mine,” Patrick Barrett said. “If the goal of the Supreme Court is really to be a non-partisan steward of the Constitution, then having a person like [Barrett], who represents a minority of people in American politics, can only be a benefit to all. If she holds to her faith, as it seems that she will, I anticipate her becoming a force that both challenges and supports conservatives and liberals alike, making the Supreme Court more effective as a whole.”

First year Lauren Leidenix also spoke to Judge Barrett’s faith.

“As shown by her previous court decisions, Barrett’s Catholic faith by no means overrides her commitment to the American people or her commitment to upholding the Constitution,” Leidenix said. “Instead her faith serves as a moral code which guides her to act justly in regards to respecting the dignity and rights of the human person.”

Leidenix said Barrett, by infusing her values into her work, is representative of the principles of the University of Notre Dame.

“The Notre Dame mission is to ‘be a force for good,’ and I believe Judge Barrett is living out this mission by using her career to make a positive difference in our nation,” Leidenix said. “Notre Dame strives to develop not only the minds, but also the hearts of its students, and Judge Barrett personifies this mission.”

Leidenix also said Barrett “provides an amazing role model for women, showing that women can have high achieving careers and be mothers as well.” 

Senior Teresa Breckler shared this sentiment. 

“It’s kind of this perfect blend of two sides,” Breckler said. “It’s like you have to either be ultra-feminist and have no kids, or super conservative, so its this really cool blending of both sides.” 

Breckler said she thinks Barrett would be a positive addition to the court.

“Most people are like ‘Okay, so she’s conservative, so she wouldn’t care about African Americans,’” Breckler said. “She does care. So it’s just really beautiful how she has this blend where she can really, actually bring thoughts about these things on both sides to the issue.”

When asked about what this means for the Notre Dame community, Breckler said it could be a positive change.

At Notre Dame, I feel like we all get polarized, and I think that it’s because we’re all passionate, and we all try and take the gifts that we have and use them,” Breckler said. “But I’m hoping that the University can draw together behind her, and even if they don’t agree specifically with her, hopefully the University can, through her being nominated, somehow become less polarized, just because she brings together a lot of these things from different spectrums.”

Several others reacted negatively to Barrett’s new role in the Supreme Court.

Saint Mary’s first year Abby Yontz said she was not happy to learn of Barrett’s nomination.

“From what I have heard, she is very Christian,” Yontz said. “I am worried about the chance of bias in her practice of law, and I personally would like to keep church and state separate.”

QuestBridge scholar and Notre Dame first year Madeline Kroner said she did not fully support the nomination.

“I would say I was surprised,” Kroner said. “I wasn’t super excited to hear another conservative was on the Supreme Court, but in the sense of being a student related to the University, I thought it was interesting.”

Second year law student Cesar Estrada said Barrett’s nomination was not necessarily good for the nation.

“From the very beginning, I was very skeptical that this would be a good thing for the country right now,” Estrada said. “[They] shouldn’t do it because we’re in such a politically tumultuous place. I think Republicans are doing it to gain political power.”

Estrada said that he would not be surprised if Barrett’s nomination changed the role of the courts. 

“Conservatives have had a grip on the Court for the last 50 years, or since the ‘70s, and they’ve been able to moderate,” he said. “So they might give you the shiny, ‘Here, see? We’re doing progressive things.’ But in the background, they’re doing all of these nefarious things. And with Justice Barrett on the court, I think that progressives aren’t even going to get the bits here and there anymore. And I think that’s going to really bring an awakening.”

Barrett’s nomination might invite more division when it comes to the courts, some of it warranted, Estrada said. He doesn’t hold anything against Barrett personally, he added.

“I do think she’s qualified, at least as well qualified as other justices,” Estrada said. “I think we’re looking at bigger issues right now, and one of them is just the legitimacy of the Supreme Court. So I was kind of disappointed that they were going to go through with it now. I think she’s more of a symptom, not the cause.”

Even though she is qualified, Estrada said, Barrett would not necessarily be a positive addition to the Court.

“I think it’ll hamper any sort of progressive agenda, so, no, I don’t think she’ll be a positive light on the court,” Estrada said. “I think that unless the Democrats do something to reform the courts, she is going to be consistently the fifth vote, if not the sixth vote, to undo any sort of progressive policy that might come forward, and any progressive policy that I think we’re deeply in need of.”

As for what her nomination means for Notre Dame, Estrada said he had mixed feelings.

“Outside of the political context, obviously, having a Supreme Court justice graduate from Notre Dame reflects well on the school and reflects well on the caliber of education that we receive here and the possibilities that graduates from our school have,” he said.

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