Confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett began Oct. 12, just 22 days ahead of the coming presidential election. And, despite the controversy that has surrounded her nomination over the last several weeks, the Supreme Court nominee confidently read her opening statement at the beginning of the hearing by answering one of the biggest questions many have had for her since learning of her nomination — Why does she want to be a Supreme Court justice?
“I chose to accept the nomination because I believe deeply in the rule of law and the place of the Supreme Court in our nation. I believe Americans of all backgrounds deserve an independent Supreme Court that interprets our Constitution and laws as they are written,” Judge Barrett said, concluding that she believes she can fulfill that role.
While I have to admit that Judge Barrett wouldn’t be my first choice of qualified candidates to replace the “Notorious” Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her legacy of propelling women’s rights forward in this nation, and even though my personal convictions differ in many respects from Judge Barrett’s, I can’t deny that she is a well-qualified candidate who has already demonstrated resilience under fire.
Despite her impressive résumé being slightly “thin” when compared to some Supreme Court justices with respect to her political and judicial experience, Judge Barrett’s three years as a judge in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals have provided her with more “hands on” experience on the bench than many of her Supreme Court predecessors. And while the majority of her rulings on that court have undoubtedly demonstrated that she is a conservative interpreter of the law and Constitution, she has stressed time and time again that her personal beliefs will not infringe on her ability to carry out her duties of impartially ruling on the Supreme Court.
Reiterating her commitment to interpreting the Constitution as it is written, Judge Barrett said in her opening statement that, “It was the content of Justice Scalia’s reasoning that shaped me.” Justice Scalia, of course, was well known for interpreting the Constitution rather literally word for word. As Barrett explained, in his judgements on the court, Justice Scalia often reached results which, when judged by his personal beliefs, he did not like. Such instances were important learning experiences for Judge Barrett during the time she clerked for him as they helped clarify the differences between law and personal belief, the nominee explained.
Such instances also proved important for her in learning to protect her beliefs and religious identity on a personal level. “I never let the law define my identity or crowd out the rest of my life,” she said.
As a person of faith, who in many instances is required to remain impartial and not let my religious beliefs wholly influence my decisions or actions, I identify with Judge Barrett. Her career choice has put her in a tough position with regard to her beliefs. She has to grapple every day with upholding her beliefs in her personal life while simultaneously setting them aside, to an extent, in her professional life.
Since being nominated, Judge Barrett has been in headlines and newsfeeds nonstop. She has been criticized for nearly every ruling she has made in her three years as a circuit court judge and nearly every statement she has made has come under scrutiny by the public. Yet despite the pressures from those nominating and supporting her to uphold the conservative ideals they are banking on her to rule with, and the attacks against her character and beliefs from her opposers, Judge Barrett has not wavered. She continues to defend her personal beliefs while also affirming her ability to set them aside and interpret the Constitution and laws of this nation in a pragmatic and logical manner.
I commend her for her constancy and I hope, for her sake, that she can remain resilient throughout the firestorm of this week’s confirmation hearings.
Yes, it’s true, Judge Barrett is not the Notorious RBG. She’ll even be the first to admit that, stating “no one will ever take (RBG’s) place.” But, to be fair, Justice Ginsburg wasn’t really the Notorious RBG when she was confirmed either. And while there is little doubt that Judge Barrett will push the balance of the court further to the right, she is undoubtedly, like Justice Ginsburg before her, a woman driven by principles. And women of principles, in my experience, do important things.
I may differ with some of Judge Barrett’s beliefs, but at the end of the day, I am glad she has them. Like the theme in the musical “Hamilton”: When evaluating a person being granted power, it is better to know they have beliefs, even ones you disagree with, than to discover later that they have none and can easily be swayed by the influence of others.