President Trump’s selection of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to be the next associate justice of the Supreme Court comes as no surprise. Nor should it. She is an inspired choice, one who combines impeccable character with exceptional qualifications.
Judge Barrett graduated magna cum laude from Rhodes College and summa cum laude from Notre Dame Law School, which foretold a brilliant career as a legal scholar.
After graduating, she clerked for judges on the two most prestigious courts in the nation—Judge Laurence H. Silberman of the D.C. Circuit and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Her fellow clerks have been quick to call her Scalia’s favorite.
Judge Barrett’s pre-judicial career included tenure in private law practice—Miller, Cassidy, Larroca & Lewin, which merged with Baker Botts during her years there—but most conspicuously included her time as a scholar.
For 15 years, she was a law professor at Notre Dame, where she taught courses on federal courts, constitutional law, constitutional theory, statutory interpretation, civil procedure, and evidence.
Notre Dame’s students honored her three times with the Distinguished Teaching Award, which is given to a faculty member “who exhibits excellence in leadership, friendship, legal knowledge, legal teaching, and professional ability.” She has also taught at the law schools of George Washington University and the University of Virginia.
Judge Barrett is both a role model for and a mentor to young women. She invested much of her time in women’s professional development, serving on the University of Notre Dame’s Committee on Women Faculty and Students and as the faculty advisor for Notre Dame Law School’s Women’s Legal Forum.
Judge Barrett is also grounded in faith and family. She is married with seven children, including two adopted from Haiti. She has a son with Down syndrome whom she would carry down the stairs by piggyback each morning. On top of everything else, she volunteers at her children’s elementary school.
Family friend and Notre Dame law professor Carter Snead said of the Barretts, “Their family is radically generous and hospitable.”
Another professor there, Stephen Yelderman, called her “mind-blowingly intelligent” and “one of the most humble people you’re going to meet. Judge Barrett is the complete package.”
That package includes an unwavering commitment to the Constitution. Her scholarship, which has made it into numerous prestigious law reviews, has repeatedly expressed her belief in originalism and textualism.
Originalist judges must “uphold the original Constitution—nothing more, but also nothing less,” she asserted. By extension, she has consistently asserted the view she expressed in her hearing after her 2017 nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit that it is “never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions . . . on the law.”
As an appellate judge, she has stood by her longstanding principles. In cases that have come before her, she has consistently cast votes defending religious liberty and the Second Amendment, in addition to ruling against regulatory overreach by administrative agencies.
When she was nominated to the Seventh Circuit, every one of the surviving law clerks who clerked with Judge Barrett on the Supreme Court during the October 1998 term—including Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s former clerks—signed a letter praising her as “smart, honorable, and fair-minded” and emphasizing that she will “make an excellent addition to the federal bench.”
Sadly, in the weeks ahead, I do not hold much hope that Democratic senators will describe Judge Barrett in the glowing terms of those across the political spectrum who actually know her.
Just a cursory look at the playbook they have followed from Robert Bork to Brett Kavanaugh makes clear that they will try to obfuscate what a bright, fair, and decent person she is in favor of whatever they think it takes to defeat her nomination. Just recall Judiciary Committee Democrats’ cringeworthy questioning of Judge Barrett about her religious beliefs during her hearings, including Dianne Feinstein’s remark that “the dogma lives loudly within you.” Another barrage of attacks from the Left has been running for days before she was even nominated.
It remains to be seen whether the Kavanaugh nomination taught Democrats a lesson or whether they would further discredit themselves by going down the same dark path they have traversed before.
I do hope that no amount of subterfuge in the weeks ahead prevents the Senate—and the people more broadly—from recognizing the ability and the character of this exceedingly worthy choice to be the next Supreme Court justice.