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Will 7th Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett Be Trump's Next Supreme Court Pick?

Wooden gavel in the foreground of a photo of an empty courtroom
By Laura Temme, Esq. on September 24, 2020 11:35 AM

The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a judicial powerhouse (whether you agreed with her or not), has once again put a question mark on the makeup of the Supreme Court. Within days of her passing, President Trump announced that he intended to nominate a woman to replace her. And the name that continues to appear on the shortlist of potential nominees? 7th Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

If nominated and confirmed, the 48-year-old would be the youngest person on the Court - with the potential to shape American jurisprudence for decades.

A Conservative Favorite

It seems Judge Barrett has been on the president's radar for some time. When deciding who should replace Justice Anthony Kennedy in 2018, Trump reportedly told advisors, "I'm saving her for Ginsburg."

She is undoubtedly a favorite among religious conservatives, as a proud Catholic. During her confirmation hearings for the 7th Circuit position, Democratic Senators expressed concern that her staunch faith would impact her decisions on the law. She responded sharply to such questions from Senator Dianne Feinstein, saying, "It's never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge's personal convictions, whether they arise from faith or anywhere else, on the law."

However, in other instances, Judge Barrett has made it clear that her faith does inform her work. In a talk given to graduates of Notre Dame Law School, she described a legal career as "a means to an end...and that end is building the Kingdom of God."

Some also worry that her membership in People of Praise, a religious group where members "swear a lifelong oath of loyalty to one another, and are assigned and accountable to a personal adviser," will impact her decisions as a judge. Judge Barrett declined to comment on her membership in the group when the New York Times reported it in 2017.

Those who want to see Roe v. Wade overturned would also be happy to see Judge Barrett on the Supreme Court bench. In a 2013 article for the Texas Law Review, she argued that the doctrine of stare decisis is a "soft rule" at the Supreme Court level - concluding that the Court need not always adhere to its own precedent.

An Originalist on the Federal Bench

During her short time on the federal bench, Judge Barrett has been described as a "champion of originalism." This is unsurprising, given her time as a clerk with one of originalism's most forceful modern advocates - Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

In one notable opinion, Judge Barrett reinstated a lawsuit by a Purdue student who had been found guilty of sexual violence by the university's student disciplinary board. She and the other two judges on the appeals panel found that the student should have an opportunity to prove the school violated his Constitutional rights.

"Purdue's process," Judge Barrett wrote, "fell short of what even a high school must provide to a student facing a days-long suspension."

President Trump has insisted that he wants to have his nominee, whoever they may be, approved before the November election. Whether that will happen remains to be seen, but there's no doubt there will be much discussion about Barrett and other potential candidates.

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