SOUTH BEND, Ind. — We are weeks away from learning whether the senate will confirm another Hoosier to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Notre Dame law professor and Appeals Judge Amy Coney Barrett — and her record — will be under a microscope during confirmation proceedings.
Supreme Court nominees aren’t required to have been judges. Some made it on without ever being one but Amy Coney Barrett has three years on the bench.
“It doesn’t give us much of a written record to analyze,” said Indiana University Law Professor Steve Sanders. “The vast majority of cases and issues that come to a Federal Court of Appeals really are not that controversial. Sometimes, they’re not really that difficult.”
Senators will also consider her 15 years as a law professor when deciding if she’s qualified for the position.
“She graduated first in her class at Notre Dame,” said Politico Magazine Contributor Adam Wren. “She won over former Senator Joe Donnelly, a Democrat who backed her for the 7th Circuit. So, this is someone who is going to be tough for Democrats to push back on.”
Many Democrats already are when it comes to how Barrett may impact the future of healthcare and abortion.
“She has participated in hearing two abortion related cases on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. In both cases, she joined dissenting opinions indicating that she was in favor of upholding state laws that provided some greater restrictions on abortion,” said Sanders. “She didn’t write, so we don’t know what her exact rationale was, she simply signed onto opinions by other judges.”
Some question her very public Catholic faith and the role it might play in her decision making on the court. Barrett has repeatedly said she keeps the two separate.
“When she would teach at Notre Dame students would say that she actually wouldn’t lead her class with prayer, that she wouldn’t talk much about her faith in class, which is contra to what some Notre Dame professors do,” said Wren. “So, she’s careful about integrating her faith and her legal thinking.”
However, there are some parts of her faith Wren said he knows will be questioned.
“She’s said on some occasions that Catholic jurists should excuse themselves from cases where the death penalty is involved because that goes against the churches teachings so that raises a lot of questions,” said Wren.
“In addition to being Catholic, she’s part of a very small group of about 1,800 people in South Bend and across the country who are members of what’s called ‘People of Praise’ and essentially, she’s assigned someone who is a woman leader and she’s sort of accountable to this spiritual elder in her life through life decisions and I think that will play perhaps a very controversial role in her hearings with people questioning whether that sort of brand of Catholicism makes her less of an independent figure.”
It’s difficult to say exactly how Barrett would rule on certain topics but Sanders said her record shows she would be a reliable conservative Justice.
“There’s no question that her appointment would present a shift,” said Sanders. “She is replacing one of the court’s most liberal justices and is poised to become clearly one of the more conservative justices.”
Since the President and Senate majority are Republican— Sanders says this confirmation is Barrett’s to lose.
Both Indiana U.S. Senators Mike Braun and Todd Young have publicly said they will vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett.
They hope to do so before the November election.