Judge Amy Coney Barrett has been nominated by U.S. President Donald Trump to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.
Trump announced on Saturday that he had chosen the staunchly conservative Barrett, who has spent the past three years on a federal appeals court — a position she was also nominated to by Trump.
Trump called her “a woman of remarkable intellect and character” who is “eminently qualified.”
If confirmed by the Senate, Barrett, 48, would become the youngest justice on the country’s highest court, where she could likely sit for decades. That Senate confirmation has essentially been guaranteed, with most Republicans in the majority saying they will support Barrett.
Here’s a look at the judge’s history and what both her supporters and opponents have to say.
Who is Amy Coney Barrett?
Barrett was born and raised in New Orleans, La., and earned her undergraduate degree in English literature in 1994 at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn. She received her law degree from Notre Dame Law School, a Catholic institution in Indiana, in 1997 and has taught at the school since 2002.
After serving as a clerk for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a stalwart conservative who died in 2016, Barrett worked from 1999 to 2001 at the Miller, Cassidy, Larroca & Lewin law firm in Washington, D.C.
Her husband, Jesse Barrett, a former federal prosecutor, also graduated from Notre Dame. Together they have seven children, including two adopted from Haiti and one with special needs.
A devout Catholic, Barrett has expressed her religious beliefs in legal papers, including one she co-authored in 1998 where she argued that faithfully Catholic judges are morally precluded from enforcing the death penalty and should recuse themselves in certain cases.
Despite this, Barrett has said her religious faith would not affect her decisions as a judge.
In 2017, Trump nominated Barrett to the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Senate confirmed her with a 55-43 majority, with four Democrats joining their Republican colleagues in voting to confirm.
During her confirmation hearing, Republicans criticized Democrats for pressing Barrett on her faith. Sen. Chuck Grassley said it could be seen as a “religious test” for the job.
She was reportedly on the shortlist for the Supreme Court seat that ultimately went to Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.
Barrett and her family have also been tied to the Christian group People of Praise, with other members saying the Barretts are members. Barrett has not commented on the group, which does not publicly list its members.
The group allegedly expects women to be subservient to their husbands, while leaders within the organization dictate much of members’ lives, according to past members.
History of conservative opinions
Barrett has long expressed sympathy with a mode of interpreting the Constitution called originalism, in which justices try to decipher original meanings of texts in assessing if someone’s rights have been violated. Many liberals oppose that strict approach, saying it is too rigid and doesn’t allow the Constitution to change with the times.
In a 2019 dissent in a gun-rights case, she argued a person convicted of a nonviolent felony shouldn’t be automatically barred from owning a gun. All but a few pages of her 37-page dissent were devoted to the history of gun rules for convicted criminals in the 18th and 19th centuries.
She also authored a ruling that makes it easier for college students who have been accused of sexual assault to challenge how their schools dealt with their cases. Barrett and her colleagues revived a lawsuit by a male student who had been suspended from Purdue University after sexual assault allegations. He accused the school of discriminating against him on the basis of his gender.
She wrote that in the case it was plausible Purdue officials chose to believe the female accuser “because she is a woman” and to disbelieve the male student accused “because he is a man.”
Barrett’s views on abortion
Although Barrett has never ruled on a direct case that would deny abortion, liberals and pro-choice advocates view her judicial record nervously.
Barrett has spoken publicly about her conviction that life begins at conception, according to a 2013 article in Notre Dame Magazine.
In a 2013 Texas Law Review article, Barrett listed seven so-called “super-precedents”: cases that no justice would dare reverse, even if they believed they were wrongly decided. They included Brown vs. Board of Education, which declared racial segregation in schools unconstitutional, and the group of five Civil Rights Cases of 1883.
Not included in the list, however, was Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that affirmed a woman’s right to abortion. Scholars don’t include it, she wrote, because public controversy swirling around it has never abated.
Since joining the appeals bench in 2017, Barrett has heard two abortion-related cases where she favoured restricting access, both of them based in Indiana.
The first saw Barrett join dissenters in favour of a law that would have required doctors to notify parents of a minor seeking an abortion — without allowing that minor to prove to a judge that they were mature enough to make the decision on their own.
In the second case, Barrett favoured rehearing a state law banning abortions related to sex, race or disability (including life-threatening decisions) and another that regulated that fetal remains from abortion procedures be buried or cremated.
While the majority struck down the so-called “reason ban” on grounds it violated Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court would later overturn a stay on the fetal burial and cremation clause, saying it did not reasonably restrict access to an abortion.
When asked directly whether she would rule against Roe vs. Wade or if she would protect abortion rights, Barrett has side-stepped the question.
During her 2017 confirmation, she was asked if she viewed abortion as always immoral.
“If I am confirmed (to the 7th Circuit), my views on this or any other question will have no bearing on the discharge of my duties as a judge,” she said, without answering the question directly.
What have Republicans said?
As Barrett quickly emerged as the frontrunner for the Supreme Court nomination following Ginsburg’s death, Republicans have sung Barrett’s praises while also criticizing Democrats for using her faith against her.
Trump himself has called Barrett “outstanding” after meeting with her at the White House ahead of the nomination.
Vice-President Mike Pence defended Barrett when asked whether her affiliation with People of Praise — which is based in Indiana, where Pence previously served as governor — would complicate her ability to serve on the high court.
“I must tell you the intolerance expressed during her last confirmation about her Catholic faith I really think was a disservice to the process and a disappointment to millions of Americans,” he told ABC News, calling her an “extraordinary jurist.”
According to multiple reports, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has told Trump that Barrett is the best choice for the Supreme Court seat.
What have Democrats said?
Although Democrats have yet to comment on Barrett specifically when talking about the upcoming Supreme Court battle, party members heavily scrutinized her policies and religious views during her 2017 confirmation.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein told Barrett during the hearing that Barrett’s views suggested religious tenets could guide her thinking on the law.
“The conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern,” Feinstein told Barrett, which drew rebuke from Republicans.
Democratic senators have told CNN that they will press Trump’s nominee to recuse themselves if the results of the November presidential election end up at the Supreme Court. Trump has suggested that is a possibility, citing mail-in ballots.
Other senators have mulled boycotting the confirmation hearings altogether to protest what they call a rushed process so close to the election.
—With files from the Associated Press and Reuters
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