President Donald Trump in all likelihood will nominate federal appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the US Supreme Court, putting an end to days of speculation over who will finally occupy the coveted chair vacated by the sudden death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Barrett was spotted on Friday at her home in South Bend, Indiana, but it's unclear if she's aware of Trump's intentions.
That said she was already in the reckoning given that Trump has indicated that his selection to replace Ginsburg would likely be a woman. Many believe Barrett to be the favorite. If nominated, she would be the youngest Supreme Court justice ever. Besides, Barrett has become a favorite with many Republicans within a short span of time. And there are ample reasons behind that. But then she also has her set of critics in the Democrats.
Trump plans to pick the 48-year-old Barrett to be the new Supreme Court justice. "The machinery is in motion," said one of the sources to CNN. Barrett has a mix of personal characteristics that Republicans see as uniquely appealing, much like Trump does. First, she is relatively young and wouldn't be another of those old white men on the bench. Second, she is a devout Catholic which confirms not only her conservative viewpoints but how she defends them against critics.
Opinions and viewpoints that she is not fit for SCOTUS have already strategically been lambasted as sexist or anti-Catholic. That said, she has been on Trump's radar for replacing Ginsburg for quite some time now. In 2019, he reportedly told multiple sources that he was "saving her for Ginsburg."
Rising up the Ranks
For many, Barrett's name also comes as a surprise. Barrett was born and raised in New Orleans. She graduated from Notre Dame Law School, and as a young lawyer and began her career in 1998 as a clerk under the extremely conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Barrett is said to have been Scalia's favorite.
In 2002, she joined the Notre Dame Law faculty as a professor, where she worked for 15 years till she was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in 2017 by Donald Trump. She is also a member of the Federalist Society.
However, she hasn't severed her ties with the school. As a sitting judge, she continues to teach constitutional law at the Notre Dame Law School. She has also been an adjunct faculty member at George Washington University Law School and a visiting professor at University of Virginia Law School.
A Devout Catholic
Barrett lives in South Bend, Indiana, with her husband of 18 years, a former federal prosecutor. The couple has seven children, including two adopted from Haiti, with one having special needs. She is generally seen as a deeply religious and conservative judge. In her 2017 confirmation hearing to the 7th Circuit, Democrats focused attention on her Catholic faith's influence on her work.
However, Because of Barrett's short time on the court, she does not have as large a body of opinions as some other circuit court judges. In most of the cases she has written about, her philosophy is a reflection of Scalia, her mentor and former boss. So much so that many religious conservatives consider her an "ideological heir" to Scalia.
Her Many Controversies
Although Barrett comes as relatively young with lesser experience than many of her peers, she also has had share of controversies. One of the main reasons behind that she seldom speaks and has time and again remains tight-lipped on certain topics.
Barrett has the backing of many conservatives and anti-abortion groups. But she's side-stepped questions about the topic in the past. And she has gone against some conservative decisions in the past. According to the IndyStar, Barrett "called for the re-hearing of a case that struck down former Indiana Gov. Mike Pence's 2016 abortion law, which prohibited abortions if the fetus was disabled."
Moreover, during the vetting process of Barrett's 2017 confirmation hearings for her 7th Circuit position, her identification as an "Orthodox Catholic" created controversy after Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein expressed her concern saying: "You have a long history of believing that your religious beliefs should prevail," and that "the dogma lives loudly within you."
That apart, in 2019, Barrett wrote a lengthy dissent in the case of Kanter v. Barr. She argued in favor of gun-ownership rights for felons. The majority opinion found that the Wisconsin Legislature was entitled to deny firearm ownership to all felons, even those convicted of nonviolent offenses but Barrett argued that history and common sense say the legislature has the right to keep guns from "dangerous people" but "that power extends only to people who are dangerous."
But even then, it seems there's no one stopping Barrett from taking the coveted chair at the SCOTUS. Her nomination marks the official start of what many believe will be a historic and divisive confirmation process. Only one justice in the Supreme Court's history has died closer to an election than Ginsburg, whose deathbed wish was reportedly that she not be replaced until after the election. Barrett's nomination definitely will create history.