The Case for Justice Amy Coney Barrett

 The Case for Justice Amy Coney Barrett 

 Ethan Bauck ’22
Contributing Writer

 Justice Amy Coney Barrett being sworn in on October 26th.

 On October 26th, at eight o’clock in the evening, America’s newest Justice, Amy Coney Barrett, was confirmed to the Supreme Court by a 52-48 vote. Justice Barrett is now the fifth woman to serve on the Court. She joins her colleagues, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, as the third woman on the bench — making the current court composition the most female in its history. While every nomination to our nation’s highest Court has some controversy, Justice Barrett’s has had more than most. The controversies surrounding her nomination center on two main themes: timing and Barrett’s judicial philosophy. However, the concerns raised either ignore historical precedent (on the topic of timing) or empirical reality (on the issue of Barrett’s philosophy).

In addressing the objections raised against Barrett’s confirmation on the grounds of timing, one only needs to glance at history to realize these grievances have little basis in precedent. Those opposed to Barrett argue that because Republicans refused a hearing for Judge Merrick Garland in 2016, they should allow the winner of the upcoming election to fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat on the Court, rather than President Trump. Yet, history reveals that the situations in 2016 and 2020 are very different. In 2016, opposing parties controlled the White House (Democrats) and Senate (Republicans). In 2020, the Republican Party is in control of both the Senate and White House. History has shown this party difference to be substantial. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, there have been 14 Supreme Court vacancies in an election year. In this instance, when the same party controls the White House and Senate, the confirmation rate is 87.5%—when different parties are in control, this percentage drops to 16.7%. The Barrett confirmation is nothing unusual and falls in line with historical precedence. Also, some have raised concerns about the closeness of the nomination compared to election day. Once again, history shows that the Barrett confirmation is standard, as there have been two nominations that have occurred twice as close to the election as Barrett’s.

Besides the concerns regarding the timing of the Barrett nomination, some have objected to Barrett’s judicial philosophy of originalism. Those who criticize Barrett fear that she will be unable to separate her Catholic faith from her rulings, despite Barrett’s reassurances that this is not so. Some have called for the rejection of Barrett’s confirmation due to her religious beliefs. However, instituting a religious test for federal nominations violates Article VI of the Constitution—ironic given the fact that this is the document Barrett was nominated to uphold and defend. Besides fears of her faith, others worry Justice Barrett will not adhere to the legal principle of stare decisis. Stare decisis is the belief that precedent set by the Supreme Court should be treated as law. Many concerns center around the following comment Barrett penned in 2013: “[the] justice’s duty is to the Constitution and that it is thus more legitimate for her to enforce her best understanding of the Constitution rather than a precedent she thinks clearly in conflict with it.” While many fear that the previous quote shows that Barrett will be a firebrand that will destroy precedent, many legal scholars agree that it is an inoffensive and mainstream opinion to hold. Barrett has repeatedly stated that while it would be wrong to follow stare decisis without question, it is a crucial tool in evaluating current issues before the Court. Instead, Justice Barrett has said that the Court can overturn precedent if a Justice manages to provide a reason as to why the original ruling is constitutionally flawed and why their interpretation of the Constitution is unquestionably correct. Given this evidence, it is clear that Barrett will not overturn landmark cases such as Roe v. Wade or Obergefell v. Hodges, as the constitutionality of these rulings is unquestionable.

It is now clear that many objections to the confirmation of Justice Barrett are not grounded in historical or present-day reality. While it is key to view situations with skepticism, it is crucial that said skepticism does not overshow the truth. Justice Barrett’s record is immaculate, and her confirmation is in line with historical precedent. The future is bright with Justice Barrett on the Court, and I hope she serves the nation well for decades to come.

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