September 28, 2020

Amy Coney Barrett

“President Donald Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court on Saturday.” AP News

Read our prior coverage of the Supreme Court vacancy. The Flip Side

See past issues

From the Left

The left argues that Barrett’s views are out of step with the majority of Americans.

“First among the questions: Is it wise to pursue a heated confirmation fight just 38 days from an election? This is the closest nomination ever made to a U.S. presidential election. The prior record was Aug. 16, 1852, and the Senate did not act on that nomination. Another question is whether it is possible to do the necessary due diligence on any candidate for the high court, one who could serve for decades, at the breakneck speed proposed by Senate Republicans, who are said to be eyeing a late-October confirmation vote…

“Most important, is it fair for Republicans to hold open a vacancy for the better part of a year in 2016, when a Democrat was president — citing the pending presidential election as a rationale — and then do a 180-degree turn when a Republican makes a nomination?… The American people ought to be able to look at their courts as autonomous arbiters of justice, not an extension of one party’s political apparatus. They ought to be able to see the system for filling vacancies as at least fair. Attempting to ram through the nomination of Judge Barrett, after refusing to even consider an eminently qualified pick made by then-President Barack Obama, is a good way to undermine America’s faith in its courts.”
Editorial Board, USA Today

“[Republicans are] pretending they don’t know how nominee Amy Coney Barrett will vote… [But] It’s not as if Barrett’s views are obscure or hard to discern… Barrett’s track record is clear and consistently conservative. Judicial opinions, law review articles and other comments demonstrate that her views on abortion, the Affordable Care Act, gun rights and so on are fundamentally at odds with most Americans'… The truth is [Republicans] don’t want to talk about Barrett’s views because they know most Americans don’t want Roe overturned or the ACA struck down or a vastly expanded Second Amendment.”
James Downie, Washington Post

“The conservative legal challenges to Obamacare don’t just constitute an attempt to strip millions of potentially life-saving insurance subsidies, or change health-care policy in a toxically unpopular manner; it also represents an assault on democracy itself. The American people’s democratically elected representatives entertained the question of whether this law should exist twice, first in 2009 and then in 2017. The verdict is clear. The unpopularity of the conservative alternative is unmistakable. Nevertheless, the right has refused to take the electorate’s ‘no’ for an answer, and is now seeking to use its influence over the judiciary to override the will of the people.”
Eric Levitz, New York Magazine

Similarly, “Undermining reproductive freedom and allowing politicians to interfere in decisions about pregnancy with no regard for personal circumstances is a terrifying prospect to most people. That's why 77% of Americans want Roe preserved, according to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll from 2019 — a fact the Republican Party knows all too well. When you're on the wrong side of public opinion, you resort to undemocratic means to get your way. Their decades-long campaign to take over the judicial branch by installing conservative judges is one way they achieve what they cannot accomplish through popular will.”
Ilyse Hogue, CNN

“Originalists reject any protection of gay and lesbian rights under the Constitution, and Barrett, before becoming a federal appellate judge, expressed opposition to same-sex marriage. Based on her writings, she is sure to vote to allow businesses and employers, based on a claim of religious freedom, to discriminate against gays and lesbians. Barrett, of course, will refuse to answer questions about these subjects. But that should not matter: Democrats must politely, but firmly, explain to the American people that President Trump has appointed someone who is going to take away their rights.”
Erwin Chemerinsky, Los Angeles Times

“As a federal appeals judge, Judge Barrett has often ruled in ways friendly to employers. She has joined rulings that stopped a case in which the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission objected to a company that allegedly assigned workers to particular geographic locations based on race and ethnicity and that limit the scope of laws prohibiting age discrimination…

“With a 6-3 conservative court, the country is at risk of having the few remaining tools that permit some limits on the power of business — like labor unions and environmental legislation — weakened still further. The court’s future decisions could give corporations even more weight and workers less, by blocking potential legislation that might mitigate the impact of unfettered capitalism and staggering inequality.”
Kim Phillips-Fein, New York Times

From the Right

The right praises Barrett’s qualifications and temperament.

The right praises Barrett’s qualifications and temperament.

“One reason Court nominations have become so bitter is because progressives have long viewed the judiciary as a second legislature for policies they can’t pass in Congress. Think racial preferences and climate regulation (Massachusetts v. EPA, 2007). If that avenue is foreclosed, as we hope it will be, then the left may have to achieve what they want the old-fashioned way—democratic persuasion and consent. This is also a lesson for Republicans, who shouldn’t default to the courts simply because there are more conservatives on the bench. In the best case, a more modest Supreme Court that sticks to the law and its constitutional calling may even cause Congress to return to doing its job of forging durable consensus.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“Barrett has earned lavish praise from colleagues across the ideological spectrum. In 2017, when Trump nominated Barrett to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, her Notre Dame colleagues unanimously supported her in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The law professors wrote that they had a ‘wide range of political views’ but were ‘united however in our judgment about Amy.’ She was also endorsed in a letter signed by every former Supreme Court law clerk who clerked while Barrett worked for Justice Scalia. The former clerks’ letter described Barrett as a ‘woman of remarkable intellect and character,’ as someone who ‘conducted herself with professionalism, grace, and integrity’ and ‘was able to work collaboratively with her colleagues (even those with whom she disagreed) on challenging legal questions.’”
Adam Freedman, City Journal

“Judge Barrett did not work in government before joining the bench, other than as a law clerk. By contrast, six of the eight current justices worked in the Justice Department in one capacity or another, and of the other two, Justice Thomas worked in the Education Department and the EEOC, and Justice Sotomayor worked for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office… On balance, some diversity of professional experience on the Court is healthy — there is also one Justice (Sotomayor) who has worked as a trial judge, one (Thomas) who has worked in a corporate legal department, and two (Alito and Breyer) who have served in the military…

“[Furthermore] With three years under her belt on the Seventh Circuit, Judge Barrett has already spent more time on the bench than Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Thomas, or multiple past Justices. Justice Kagan, who was Dean of Harvard Law School, never served as a judge… Barrett would also, as President Trump noted, become the first mother of school-age children ever on the Court, with seven children between the ages of eight and 19. In fact, she would be the only mother on the current Court, as Justice Kagan is single, Justice Sotomayor is divorced, and both are childless.”
Dan McLaughlin, National Review

“[Conservative feminism] takes for granted that much of what Ginsburg fought for was necessary and just; that the old order suppressed female talent and ambition; that sexism and misogyny are more potent forces than many anti-feminists allowed. It agrees that the accomplishments of Barrett’s career — in academia and now on the federal bench — could have been denied to her in 1950, and it hails that change as good…

“But then it also argues that feminism’s victories were somewhat unbalanced, that they were kinder to professional ambition than to other human aspirations, and that the society they forged has lost its equilibrium not just in work-life balance but also in other areas — sex and romance and marriage and child rearing, with the sexes increasingly alienated from one another and too many children desired but never born… Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s likely successor could become a different kind of three-initialed icon.”
Ross Douthat, New York Times

“Many women will view Barrett as a regular suburban mom just like them. This is where Barrett’s biography is deadly to Democratic attack lines: small-town, middle America, Catholic, teacher, mother of seven, with two kids adopted from Haiti after a [devastating] hurricane and one kid with Down’s Syndrome. Demonizing any part of her biography inherently demonizes thousands of other women sharing that same trait or who will find nothing but goodness in Barrett’s biography…

“Other than Neil Gorsuch, who lived in Colorado following his appointment to the 10th Circuit, she will be the only justice who didn’t spend the bulk of her adult life since turning 18 in elite Ivy League schools or among the elite lawyers and politicians in the Acela corridor. She spent most of her life in South Bend, Indiana, living among her working-class neighbors who largely make up that city. Barrett is a wholesome, Walmart soccer mom who drives a minivan.”
Matt Mayer, Spectator USA

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