Trump Nominates Amy Coney Barrett to Fill Ginsburg Seat

Amy Coney Barrett, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit judge, speaks during the University of Notre Dame’s Law School commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 19, 2018, at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. (Robert Franklin/University of Notre Dame via AP)

WASHINGTON (CN) — President Donald Trump announced from the White House Saturday the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

“This is my third such nomination after Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh and it is a very proud moment indeed,” Trump said.

Trump had reportedly said in 2018, when deciding who would replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, he was “saving” Barrett to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat if he had the opportunity to nominate her replacement.

A devout Catholic and member of the conservative legal advocacy group the Federalist Society, Barrett, 48, clerked for former Justice Antonin Scalia and graduated with honors from Notre Dame Law School in 1997. 

She wrote for the school’s law review that year that Catholic judges are “morally precluded” from enforcing the death penalty. Barrett worked for the Washington firm Miller, Cassidy, Larroca & Lewin and remained with the firm when it merged with Baker Botts in 2001.

Barrett again highlighted her faith in 2017, when she was confirmed to the Seventh Circuit bench.

“But, I continue to stand and vehemently believe the core proposition of that article, which is that if there is ever a conflict between a judge’s personal conviction and that judge’s duty under the rule of law, that it is never, ever permissible for that judge to follow their personal convictions in the decision of a case, rather than what the law requires,” Barrett said.

The news comes a day after the conclusion of memorial services for Justice Ginsburg, who died at her Washington home last week. On Friday, Ginsburg became the first woman and Jewish-American to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol after lying in repose at the Supreme Court on Wednesday and Thursday.

Trump lauded Barrett as a judge who would decide cases “based on the text of the Constitution, as written.” Thanking members of the Senate gathered for their attendance, the president said Barrett’s hearings should be “fair and timely.”

“This should be a straightforward and prompt confirmation, should be very easy, good luck,” Trump said. “I’m sure it will be extremely non-controversial. We said that the last time didn’t we?”

Democrats highlighted Barrett as extremely conservative during her 2017 Senate confirmation hearings, dissecting her published works from her time in academia. In written questions given to Barrett during one hearing, she was asked to elaborate what she meant when she wrote judges should not “try to align” the legal system with the church but “conform their own behavior to the church’s standard.”

Barrett said she was implying judges should live lives of example, through their faith.

On Saturday, Barrett said she was deeply honored to have been nominated, adding that she loved the United States and the Constitution. Should she be confirmed by the Senate, she said, Barrett would be mindful of her predecessor, Justice Ginsburg.

“The flag of the United States is still flying at half-staff in memory of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to mark the end of a great American life,” Barrett said. “Justice Ginsburg began her career at a time when women were not welcome in the legal profession. But she not only broke glass ceilings, she smashed them. For that, she has won the admiration of women across the country and indeed, all over the world.”

Barrett also noted the friendship between Justice Scalia and Justice Ginsburg, saying she admired the pair’s ability to argue issues “of great consequence” without destroying their friendship or affection.

Maureen Scalia, the late justice’s wife also attended the ceremony and Barrett noted her presence, recalling the more-than 20-year-old lesson she learned when under her husband’s tutelage.

“His judicial philosophy is mine too; a judge must apply the law, as written,” Barrett said. “Judges are not policy makers and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold.”

Financial disclosure reports obtained Friday by Fix the Court — a group advocating for judicial transparency — note that at the end of last year, Barrett had up to $2.84 million in investments. In 2018 and 2019, she went on 10 trips funded by the Federalist Society and appears to own two homes valued nearly $600,000 combined.

Barrett also is staunchly opposed to the Affordable Care Act, writing in a 2017 article that the Supreme Court had illegitimately distorted the Constitution through its decisions in NFIB v. Sebelius and King v. Burwell. In those decisions, Chief Justice John Roberts had pushed the law “beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute,” she wrote.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham is expected to lay out a hearing schedule late Saturday afternoon. The nominee is expected to meet with individual senators next week.

Senate Republicans have faced criticism since Ginsburg’s death for proclaiming they will move forward with Trump’s nominee during an election year. The decision is an about-face from 2016 when they stonewalled President Barack Obama’s nominee to the court, U.S. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland.

Barrett said she recognized the importance of the moment of being nominated to the high court, saying the institution “belongs to all of us.”

“If confirmed, I would not assume that role for the sake of those in my own circle and certainly not for my own sake,” Barrett said. “I would assume this role to serve you. I would discharge the judicial oath, which requires me to administer justice without respect to persons, do equal right to the poor and rich and faithfully and impartially discharge my duties under the United States Constitution.”

She added: “I have no illusions that the road ahead of me will be easy, for the short term, or the long haul.”

In a statement Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Trump couldn’t have made a better decision by selecting Barrett. She had demonstrated the “independence, impartiality and fidelity” to the Constitution deserving of being selected to the high court, he said.

“The Senate will evaluate this nomination on the basis of Judge Barrett’s objective qualifications,” McConnell said in a statement. “But it cannot escape notice that this nominee has also already won national admiration for her shining example of strong female leadership at the very top of her field.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he would strongly oppose the nomination, noting that Barrett was a long-time rival of the Affordable Care Act. The futures of DACA recipients, LGBTQ rights and voting rights also could be adversely affected if Barrett was confirmed, he said, based on her writings and judicial history.

“Justice Ginsburg’s dying wish was that she not be replaced until a new president is installed,” Schumer said. “Republicans are poised to not only ignore her wishes, but to replace her with someone who could tear down everything that she built.”

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