Who is Amy Coney Barrett?

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By Margaret Adams

On September 23, President Donald Trump announced that Amy Coney Barrett will be his nomination for Supreme Court Justice, replacing the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. A New Orleans native, Amy Coney Barrett attended the local Catholic schools, St. Catherine of Siena Catholic School and St. Mary’s Dominican High School. She then attended Rhodes College and went on to Notre Dame Law School. She became a Law professor there and has since become a 7th Circuit Court of Appeals judge.

Since Trump’s announcement of her nomination, there has been a mixed public opinion of her. Many people do not agree with her personal belief system, as she is Catholic; thinking she will rule according to her personal belief system, rather than the Constitution. 

“The possible impact of Barrett’s Catholicism on her jurisprudence has continued to be a subject of speculation in part because of her reported membership in a conservative Catholic ‘covenant’ community known as People of Praise,” According to NPR. “The organization, which also includes some non-Catholics, holds to highly traditional social views and has been subject to critical reviews in progressive circles.”

The Tower spoke with a person who has known Amy Coney Barrett since childhood; Angelle Adams, another New Orleans native, attended St. Mary’s Dominican High School with Barrett. According to Adams, they have stayed friends since high school, visiting each other in college while Adams was at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi, and being there for each other throughout motherhood. When asked about Barrett’s role as a friend in her life Adams called Barrett a constant.

“She has always been there,” Adams said. “When I needed her she has always made the effort… When she was in town, visiting family to make time for me as well. She is the person that I go to when I need a little wisdom… And that’s why she has so many lasting friendships with people from, every political angle, and every socio economic level, every race, every religion, she connects with, with people.”

When asked about her reaction to Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court, she explained how surprised she was; she brought up Barrett’s being tapped in 2018, when Scalia’s spot was up in the air:.

“She was on that shortlist,” Adams said. “And the only thing that surprised me about it is typically, those lists are filled with Ivy League, people who went to very connected well known feeder schools… and a woman from the south who went to a regular little high school and tiny liberal arts college. That’s unusual.”

She went on to explain what qualities she found Barrett had that got her to where she is today.

“She’s an absolute workhorse, there’s nothing that’s going to be too much trouble, or nothing’s going to be too in depth and nothing that’s going to be too involved, that she’s not going to tackle in an in depth way,” Adams said. “The other thing is, and people have commented on this, her logic, and her communication is impeccable. The other thing is her leadership, because she always had some amazing idea, put together some kind of a plan so that it would be approved, she always came up with unique things and somehow found a way to execute them. So her leadership was creative, and relentless. The other thing is her ability to connect with people. And I did kind of mention this, but in high schools very classically clicky and we would have, instead of cliques, we have what we call lunch groups. Amy had a way of ingratiating herself to everyone… The intention was to nominate someone who was without reproach. And that is so rare in today’s society. But that is truly who she is.”

At the time of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, she requested that her spot on the Supreme Court be left open. Trump nominated Barrett only a month after Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. When asked what this means for the public’s perception of Barrett and modern feminism, Adams expressed that the president’s term is for four years, and the public’s perception of Barrett should not be tainted by the controversial timing.

“It’s an appointment for life,” Adams said. “And the president is doing nothing more than the same thing, which is utilizing his full tenure. So elections have consequences. Right now, the republicans have the presidency and the Senate, and they have every right to make this nomination. As far as whether or not it will taint Miss Amy or her work or her legacy, I truly do not think so. Because my suspicion is that her opinions will be so incisive, and so brilliant, that will be her legacy. And however the nomination happened will be forgotten.”

Adams also mentioned how, in her perspective, feminism should not be “put in a box.”

“The point of feminism and for women to have freedom in that we are free to choose any number of views from any side of the political spectrum,” Adams said. “We can choose something to the right, something to the left, something in the middle or whatever we want because we’re free to do that. And feminism, the fundamental ideals and the fundament of feminism, support that. So, the idea that feminism only exists within a certain framework of values or beliefs, that’s just another form of oppression.”

Adams also added that Barrett’s personal beliefs will have no effect on the way she rules, emphasizing the potentially harmful implication.

“She is a strict constitutionalist. Her rulings will only consider the text of the Constitution or the statute, her personal beliefs, whether they be closely held or superficial, or her gut instincts or hunches, or her mood on any particular day, none of that will come to bear on her decisions or her opinions…  And also the intimation or the signal that she cannot do that is a really dangerous, underlying sexist tone. Because it’s kind of saying, ‘Well, maybe you’re a little too emotional.’ Or maybe ‘I think because you’re a woman, you can’t be that logical.’ And I think that’s offensive.”

The Tower also spoke with CUA’s President of College Democrats, Regina Brennan. She first heard about Barrett a few weeks before the death of RBG. When asked about her initial reaction to Amy Barrett’s nomination, she expressed feelings of confusion and grief, due to the speed at which the nomination processes were happening so soon after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 

“I think that I have a complicated reaction just because obviously, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is one of my personal heroes, and such a strong and powerful American figure,” Brennan said. “And I feel like my grief, for her passing was muddled by the pressure to replace her. And so I think that my initial reaction to Barrett was confusion. And also, I didn’t really feel as though I could take in the fact that the Supreme Court nominations are a big thing. I feel like I couldn’t take it in because I was mourning the loss of RBG. But when I got to know more about her, I think that I had a lot of anxiety. Because after doing research on her and like figuring out what she stood for on issues that mattered to me, specifically, like health care and immigration, I realized that this is not someone that I personally would want to have on the Supreme Court.”

She expressed how she found that Barrett’s credentials prove her more than capable of and deserving of a seat on the court, but her concern comes from the implications of having a more conservative-thinking court.

“I mean, we look at Amy Coney Barrett objectively, there’s no one more qualified to have this seat,” Brennan said. “She has worked tirelessly her entire life to be where she is. And I think that a nomination of this regard is a testament to your hard work… And so I think that she is an extremely hardworking person, extremely smart. I think that when it comes to anything I may dislike, it comes down to political issues. And nothing about her personal character at all. I think that the fight against her is more so a fight against a more conservative Supreme Court than we already have… and her ability to contribute to that. And so, when I think of Amy Coney Barrett, I think of possibly the repeal of Obamacare… And I don’t think I don’t really think of her personal character in the same way. Honestly, [for] any judge, it’s really about the position they hold on the bench.” 

When asked how she thinks Barrett will rule if she does become a Supreme Court Justice, Brennan illustrated how Barrett views the Constitution.

“I mean, Barrett, from what I know is a traditionalist judge,” Brennan said. “So she follows the way of the Constitution, how it was written in what context it was written in… unlike someone like RBG, who was more of an activist judge, she lived the constitution and saw it for its historical context, and then adjusted it for the context we’re in now, I think that Coney Barrett is kind of the opposite of that… The issues that are brought to the court today are issues that were not really existing back then. I mean, the ideas of any kind of national public option health care policy, mass immigration from Central America, or gun legislation, those were not issues that I think the founding fathers could have ever expected for the nation.”

She also mentioned that focusing on her personal beliefs is not as relevant as her decisions made as Judge on 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“… I think that the media currently is very focused on her personal beliefs. And I don’t think that is ever a good way to try to make the argument against someone because we expect that these people that we nominate are supposed to be able to separate from that. And I think that’s a good measure to hold truth to that. But I think the best answer we can get from that question is looking at her past… opinions regarding Supreme Court cases and deciding what her judgment was there.”

When asked if she thinks Barrett’s religious beliefs will inhibit her from doing her job, according to the Constitution, Brennan expressed that the issue has nothing to do with her own faith, but the entire process as an example of Donald Trump’s explicit abuse of power.

“No, I don’t think that personal beliefs inhibit anyone from doing their job,” Brennan said. “And I think that we can’t expect every leader, every person in power to have a certain set of guiding morals to lead the nation. The emotional power of politics is one of the reasons that people are so drawn to politics. I think that it will inhibit her support from the whole of the nation. I think that it can be polarizing to see very strong beliefs, but that does not discredit her in any way. And I also think the more tangible aspects of policy like that we see that could come before the court should be more of a concern than the fact that she has such strong faith, and I think that it would be very ironic and in a nation founded on political and religious freedom to see religion as a qualifying discrediting factor for Coney Barrett.”

“ I think that the most important thing people should take away from this is that what is being done in terms of rushing through this nomination with less than a month away to the election, when typically, we see these these processes take close to or over 100 days, is a direct abuse of power and disregard for the concerns of the American people. Polls have shown that over 60-70% of Americans want to wait until after election day, want to wait till there’s an possibly a new president, to nominate a Supreme Court justice. A democracy is about the people’s power, and when that is being disrespected it is a much more serious issue than, perhaps what we’ve been desensitized to over the last four years, which is this kind of upheaval of the political norms and practices we have put in place. And so, regardless of what happens with Barrett’s nomination, I hope that that is one major takeaway to put more pressure, more accountability, and reform into the systems we have in place to make sure that something like this can’t happen again.”

According to NPR, her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin on October 12. 

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