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The Student News Site of MAST Academy

The Beacon

The Beacon

Amy Coney Barrett: New Supreme Court Justice confirmed

By Emma Almanza
Staff Writer

President Donald Trump, Justice Amy Coney Barrett pose with their spouses on the White House balcony after the confirmation on October 26, 2020 (Photo by Alex Brandon for the Associated Press)

On September 18, 2020 Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a renowned advocate for gender equality, passed away. Her death left an open seat on the Supreme Court up for grabs. President Donald Trump quickly took advantage of the opportunity, nominating and later confirming Ginsburg’s replacement: Amy Coney Barrett. 

The nomination quickly caused controversy, primarily because the event was later designated as a COVID-19 super-spreader, infecting many White House and government officials, including President Trump himself. Many also took issue with the  nomination’s proximity to the upcoming election. Critics argued that allowing President Trump to nominate and later confirm a new Supreme Court Justice so close to the election was hypocritical, due to remarks made by senator Mitch McConnell, as he blocked previous President Barack Obama from filling a seat in 2016, eight months before the election.

In his statement regarding Barrett’s confirmation, McConnell argued that the circumstances were different because the Senate and the presidency are held by the same party, which wasn’t the case the 2016 vacancy, stating that “Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposite-party president’s Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year.” 

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Among the controversy on the proximity of this confirmation to the election, other concerns regarding Barrett’s qualification for the position have arisen. Barrett, a 48-year-old former law professor, served as an appeals judge in the seventh circuit for three years. While she is undeniably intelligent, attending Notre Dame School of Law and graduating top of her class, government officials and citizens alike have argued that Barrett has comparatively little experience to occupy a position on the highest court in the country, compared to her predecessors. For reference,  Chief Justice John Roberts had over ten years of experience as a judge and law clerk before his confirmation in 2005. It has been hypothesized that Barrett’s lack of experience is what made it so easy to confirm her in such a short time period, as there was little in her record to review. 

Barrett’s experience is not the only thing being called into question. She is on record as an originalist and textualist, meaning that she believes the Constitution should be interpreted as exactly what was meant by those who drafted and ratified it 200 years ago. 

Barrett’s confirmation hearing left many wondering what her decisions would look like, as she has not gone in-depth on her views, repeatedly claiming that responding to specifics would amount to policy questions that were inappropriate for a judge to answer. This left many citizens concerned, especially due to her refusal to answer questions they believed to be obvious such as “Does systematic racism exist?” or “Is the scientific consensus on climate change correct?” Others thought her refusing to respond was reasonable as judges are not to have political agendas. 

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell paused for a photo after voting to confirm Amy Coney Barrett (Photo by Manuel Balce Cenet for the Associated Press)

Some of Barrett’s views can be surmised through her judicial records, like her history of ruling against abortions, frequently aligning with anti-abortion organizations. This has earned her support among conservatives but has also raised hackles from the “pro-choice” movement. 

Barrett has also critiqued the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, because of its guarantee that employers provide birth control for their employees. She called this “morally obtuse” and “a grave infringement on religious liberty.” Many citizens who rely on the ACA for their healthcare are concerned, as the Supreme Court will hear arguments once again regarding the viability of the ACA just after the election. 

Barrett’s confirmation has certainly brought an abundance of controversy with some fully supporting her and others going as far as to claim her confirmation is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court now sits at a 6-3 conservative majority, leaving many Democrats concerned as to what views and decisions will be brought to the court following the election, and what those rulings will be.  

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Amy Coney Barrett: New Supreme Court Justice confirmed