On Sunday, President Trump formally announced his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to succeed the late Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a justice on the Supreme Court. Barrett is Trump's third nomination. The first was Justice Gorsuch, who replaced Justice Scalia in 2017, and the second was Justice Kavanaugh, who replaced Justice Kennedy in 2018.
Barrett, 48 years old, currently serves as a circuit judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago. Trump nominated and the Senate confirmed her for that role in 2017. She graduated from Rhodes College and the University of Notre Dame Law School. At Notre Dame, she earned a full academic scholarship, served as the Executive Editor of the Law Review, and graduated first in her class. After graduation, for one year each, she clerked for Judge Laurence Silberman on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and for Justice Antonin Scalia on Supreme Court. She then practiced at a private law firm for three years before working as a Notre Dame Law School professor for 15 years. During her tenure, she was chosen Distinguished Professor of the Year three times.
Trump said, "When I nominated Judge Barrett to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in 2017, every law clerk from her time at the Supreme Court endorsed her and endorsed her nomination, writing, 'We are Democrats, Republicans, and independents…yet we write to support the nomination of Professor Barrett to be a Circuit Judge…Professor Barrett is a woman of remarkable intellect and character. She is eminently qualified for the job.'" He continued, "The entire Notre Dame Law facility and faculty, everybody...wrote letters of support of Amy’s nomination to the Seventh Circuit. They wrote, in effect: 'Despite our differences, we unanimously agree that our constitutional system depends upon an independent judiciary staffed by talented people devoted to the fair and impartial administration of the rule of law. And we unanimously agree that Amy is such a person.'” According to Law360, she garnered the support of her Seventh Circuit nomination from politically diverse groups, including former co-clerks at the Supreme Court and every member of the Notre Dame law faculty.
Barrett is a devout Catholic, a characteristic that Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) questioned during the Seventh Circuit confirmation hearing on whether the judge could balance her religious faith and federal judge duties. She is married to her husband, Jesse Barrett, and is the mother of seven children, two of which are adopted from Haiti and one who has Downs Syndrome. If confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate, Judge Barrett will be the first lady with school-aged children to serve on the Supreme Court.
The Constitution states that the President of the United States possesses the authority under Article II to nominate a person when a vacancy occurs on the Supreme Court. The President refers the nominee to the United States Senate, in which the Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing where the nominee provides testimony and responds to questions from members of the panel. The Committee refers the nomination to the full Senate for consideration. In this way, both the Executive and Legislative Branches of the federal government shape the Judiciary Branch.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) announced that "the hearing to consider the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to serve as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States will begin October 12, 2020...Opening statements by Judiciary Committee members and the nominee will occur on Monday, October 12. The questioning of Judge Barrett will begin on Tuesday, October 13. Testimony by those who know Judge Barrett the best and legal experts is expected to follow." Hearings typically last three to four days.
Trump and most Senate Republicans hope to quickly fill the vacant Supreme Court seat with a conservative judge, which would likely ensure a more right-leaning Court for decades. In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that Barrett would "receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate." The Wall Street Journal reported that "So far, he has succeeded in swiftly consolidating support, at least publicly, among all but two GOP senators for moving ahead with the confirmation process for President Trump’s nominee." Those senators are Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, both who oppose confirming a new justice within weeks of the election.
Trump emphasized the importance of having a full bench on the Court before Nov. 3 because they could be responsible for settling legal disputes tied to the election, including his claims of fraud with mail-in ballots and a possible tie in the presidential election. “I think this will end up in the Supreme Court, and I think it’s very important that we have nine justices," he told ABC News last week.
Law360 highlighted the controversy surrounding Barrett's nomination, namely her conservative decisions as a circuit judge and the potential to overturn critical cases, such as Obamacare and Roe v. Rade, on the Supreme Court.
At her official nomination announcement at The White House, Judge Barrett said, "I clerked for Justice Scalia more than 20 years ago, but the lessons I learned still resonate. His judicial philosophy is mine too: A judge must apply the law as written. Judges are not policymakers, and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold."