Report: Amy Coney Barrett

Updated: Jan 4

It is impossible to believe that a judge with her record of life-long, deep-seated and publicly trumpeted core beliefs is capable of being fair and impartial or following the judicial precedent.


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From Huffington Post:


Barrett has suggested Roe v. Wade was an “erroneous decision” and called the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit “an assault on religious liberty.” She is on Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court picks, which Trump said only includes people willing to overturn Roe v. Wade. The former Notre Dame law professor also sparked questions about her membership in a tightly knit Christian group called People of Praise, in which members swear a lifelong oath of loyalty and are accountable to a personal adviser ― called a “head” for men and a “handmaid” for women ― and are taught that husbands are the heads of their wives and should take authority over the family. Every Senate Republican voted to confirm her.


From The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights:


Professor Barrett wrote a law review article called “Catholic Judges in Capital Cases” in which she made the provocative argument that observant Catholic judges must recuse in death penalty cases because their religious faith, which counsels against taking a life, was more important than following the law when the two conflict.  She and her co-author wrote: “[W]e believe that Catholic judges (if they are faithful to the teaching of their church) are morally precluded from enforcing the death penalty.  This means that they can neither themselves sentence criminals to death nor enforce jury recommendations of death.”[6]   Although the article focused on the death penalty, it briefly discussed abortion and suggested the case for recusal was even stronger in that context.  She and her co-author wrote: “The abortion case is a bit easier, we think.  Both the state and the unborn child’s mother are (at least typically) acting with gross unfairness to the unborn child, whereas the moral objection to capital punishment is not that it is unfair to the offender.”[7]  They also wrote: “The prohibitions against abortion and euthanasia (properly defined) are absolute; those against war and capital punishment are not.”[8]


In light of Professor Barrett’s personal commitment to church teachings – she signed a letter in 2015 that stated: “[W]e the undersigned Catholic women . . . wish to express our love for Pope Francis, our fidelity to and gratitude for the doctrines of the Catholic Church, and our confidence in the Synod of Bishops as it strives to strengthen the Church’s evangelizing mission”[9] – she must follow her own directive to recuse in any case involving the death penalty or abortion because, using her own standard, she is “morally precluded” from deciding such cases.  Senators must obtain such a commitment from Professor Barrett at her hearing.


Professor Barrett must also commit to recusing in cases involving contraception.  In 2012, she signed a letter entitled “Unacceptable” that protested the Obama administration’s good faith effort to create a compromise in carrying out the contraception mandate under the Affordable Care Act.  Professor Barrett’s letter stated: “This is a grave violation of religious freedom and cannot stand.  It is an insult to the intelligence of Catholics, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims, and other people of faith and conscience to imagine that they will accept an assault on their religious liberty if only it is covered up by a cheap accounting trick.”[10]  This strident letter is a skewed and misleading representation of a careful compromise that would have ensured women’s access to contraception as well as accommodated religious liberty interests by requiring insurance companies, rather than religious employers, to provide the contraceptive coverage.  As a signatory to this letter, Professor Barrett demonstrated a strong bias against women making their own healthcare decisions.


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History: Finally, this nomination represents another disturbing example of President Trump taking advantage of Republican obstruction.  The Seventh Circuit vacancy to which Professor Barrett was nominated became vacant on February 18, 2015, two and a half years ago.  President Obama nominated a well-respected former Indiana supreme court justice, Myra Selby, to this vacancy on January 12, 2016, but Senator Coats blocked the nomination by refusing to return his blue slip, thereby denying Justice Selby a hearing and vote.  She would have been the first African American and the first woman from Indiana to serve on the Seventh Circuit.


From the National Women's Law Center:


President Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett, a professor at Notre Dame Law School, to an Indiana seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. President Obama had nominated Myra Selby to this seat in 2016, but her nomination was blocked, and she never even received a hearing.  Barrett’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee was held yesterday – in an unusual and ill-advised move, along with three other judicial nominees and the nominee to head the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice. (emphasis added)


Here are five things you should know about Amy Coney Barrett’s record:


Her writings reflect an originalist approach to the Constitution. This means that she would seek to interpret the Constitution according to its “original public meaning” – which, in Barrett’s own words, arguably calls into question the constitutionality of the Fourteenth Amendment, the validity of Brown v. Bd. Of Ed., and the use of paper money. This approach could have serious implications for how Barrett, who served as a law clerk for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, would rule in cases involving civil rights and reproductive rights, among other issues.


The Alliance For Justice background report on Amy Coney Barrett is here.



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