Who is Amy Coney Barrett?


Isabella Randle, Managing Director

On Saturday, President Donald Trump announced that Judge Amy Coney Barrett was his selection to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat left by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  In 2018, President Trump said he was “saving her” to replace Justice Ginsburg.

Barrett was born in New Orleans in 1972. As the oldest of seven children, Barrett grew up in a devout Catholic family, and attended a Catholic high school.  She attended Rhodes College, graduating magna cum laude in 1994, and then graduated first in her class at Notre Dame Law School in 1997.  In law school, Barrett received the Hoynes Prize, given “to the member of the graduating law class who has the best record in scholarship, application, deportment, and achievement.”

After graduation, Barrett clerked for Judge Laurence H. Silberman of the Washington D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, as well as for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, with whom she shared textualist and originalist constitutional views.  She also practiced law in trial and appellate courts for the Washington, D.C.-based firm Miller, Cassidy, Larroca & Lewin and Houston-based firm Baker Botts. Currently, Barrett serves as the federal judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Barrett is also a professor at the Notre Dame Law School, where she has taught for over 15 years.  She was voted best professor by students three times, and is highly respected by her colleagues, even those who have disagreed with her political leaning.  As a faculty member, Barrett was a member of Faculty for Life, a pro-life group, and had her work published in several prestigious law journals.

If confirmed, the 48-year old would be the youngest Supreme Court Justice in history, and the only woman with school-age children to ever serve on the Court.  Barrett is married to Jesse Barrett, a former federal prosecutor and current private practice lawyer whom she met at Notre Dame Law, and the couple has seven children.  Two of Barrett’s children were adopted from Haiti, which has caused considerable backlash from some left-leaning Americans, who cite colonialist and developmental concerns. 

In the past, Barrett has spoken to multiple conservative and religious groups, including the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, a program run by the Alliance for Defending Freedom, which has staunch anti-LGBTQI+ views.  She is a member of the Federalist Society, a group of conservative and libertarian lawyers who advocate for originalist constitutional interpretations,  and the People of Praise, a small group of mostly Catholics that has experienced controversy in recent years and has removed Barrett’s membership from their records.

If confirmed, Barrett would be the sixth Catholic on the Supreme Court, making the body even less representative of the American public, only 20% of whom are Catholic, according to Pew Research.  Barrett has said “It’s never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions, whether they derive from faith or anywhere else on the law.”  However, many Americans still have concerns about what her confirmation brings.

“She is highly qualified from the academic perspective,” one junior at Vanderbilt said, “however, based on her opinions of women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and healthcare, among other issues, it appears she will be terrible for the country.”

Barrett’s nomination is Trump’s first step in securing a 6-3 conservative-liberal Supreme Court, a shift that could impact the United States for generations.  Barrett has repeatedly expressed criticism of the Affordable Care Act, and holds strong pro-life beliefs that are concerning for reproductive rights advocates.  Six conservative justices on the court brings the potential to completely overturn landmark decision Roe v. Wade, which has protected the right to an abortion for almost 50 years.  LGBTQI+ activists are also concerned about Barrett’s record, with the Human Rights Campaign calling her “an absolute threat to LGBTQ rights.” With Democrats fighting to push the confirmation vote until after the election, only time will tell if Judge Amy Coney Barrett makes it to the Supreme Court.