Who is Amy Coney Barrett, the judge Trump nominated to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg?

  • Amy Coney Barrett has served on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit since 2017.
  • After a week of reports cast Coney Barrett as the favourite to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, President Donald Trump on September 26 announced her as his nominee for the seat.
  • She was previously considered by President Trump to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court left by Justice Anthony Kennedy and filled eventually by Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
  • Barrett previously clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the US Supreme Court.
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President Donald Trump announced Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee for US Supreme Court to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Saturday.

Justice Ginsburg died September 18 at age 87 due to complications from cancer. Shortly after the news broke of her death, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced in a statement that whoever Trump nominates to replace her will receive a vote on the Senate floor.

Trump previously nominated two men: Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the court, but said after Ginsburg’s death his nominee to replace her would be a woman.

Coney Barrett, a devout Catholic and a favoured pick of social conservatives, is a professor at the University of Notre Dame Law School and was nominated and confirmed to serve on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago in 2017.

She and her husband have seven children, two of whom are adopted. Coney Barrett visited the White House on Monday, September 21, as CNN reported that while Trump’s thinking was still evolving, Coney Barrett was his “overwhelming favourite.”

Speaking in the White House’s Rose Garden announcing the nomination, Trump lauded Barrett as “a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials, and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution.”

And at age 48, Coney Barrett would serve on the high court for decades to come if nominated and confirmed. Here’s what you need to know about her:

Coney Barrett’s early life and education:

Coney Barrett is originally from Metairie, Louisiana, a suburb of New Orleans, where she attended St. Mary’s Dominican High School. She later went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in English from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee in 1994 and earned her JD from the University of Notre Dame Law School in 1997, where she graduated summa cum laude.

Who she clerked for

Coney Barrett served in clerkships for Judge Laurence Silberman of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and for former Associate Justice Antonin Scalia of the US Supreme Court. Coney Barrett was one of Scalia’s favourite clerks, and largely embodies his judicial philosophy of textualism, The New York Times reported.

Her positions

  • Previously an associate at law firm Miller, Cassidy, Larocca, and Lewin in Washington, DC
  • Professor at Notre Dame Law School, where she’s taught constitutional law, the federal courts, and statutory interpretation since 2002.

Current court

Appointed by Trump and confirmed by the US Senate to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago in 2017.

Consideration for Kennedy Supreme Court seat

Barrett had been in the top four candidates under consideration by the president to fill the seat opened by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, which was later filled by current Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

In July 2019, Jonathan Swan and Sam Baker at Axios reported that Trump had told several people “I’m saving her for Ginsburg,” of Coney Barrett, implying that in the event of a vacancy, she would be an immediate contender.

For the Kennedy seat, some analysts believed Barrett’s staked-out positions on abortion would make it difficult for a number of key Republican senators, specifically Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, to support her.

Rulings and writings on abortion

A devout Catholic, Barrett has been on the bench for a short time, but she’s written extensively on the subject of abortion in her career, which would likely become a lightning-rod issue in her confirmation proceedings if she were nominated to the high court.

In a law review article published in 1998 that Barrett wrote while a third-year law student, she and a co-author argued Catholic judges should be allowed to recuse themselves from certain cases involving abortion or the death penalty.

She clarified in her 2017 confirmation to the 7th Circuit, however, that the issues she explored in the law review article don’t reflect her opinions today.

“Would I or could I say, sitting here today, that that article and its every particular reflects how I think about these questions today with, as you say, the benefit of 20 years of experience and also the ability to speak solely in my own voice? No, it would not,” she said.

Barrett has also said she believes it highly unlikely for the landmark case Roe v. Wade to be overturned, but doesn’t see it as a “super-precedent” case, like Marbury v. Madison, that no court would ever overturn.

She advocated in a 2013 law review article for a more “flexible” application of stare decisis, or the principle of respecting precedent in court cases. Those writings combined with her personal belief that life begins at conception had some critics concerned about what her presence on the court could mean for future abortion rights cases when she was floated for Kennedy’s seat in 2018.

In her time on the 7th Circuit, Coney Barrett has voted in favour of re-hearing challenges to two abortion-related laws: a case challenging parental consent laws for minors seeking an abortion, and a case over an Indiana law that barred abortions for sex or disability and required the burial of fetal remains, Reuters and the Washington Post noted.