If nothing else can be said about Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, one thing is certain is that she is a brilliant legal mind. For hours she sat during day two of her confirmation hearing under sometimes friendly, sometimes not so friendly scrutiny, being questioned at length about her legal philosophy, past cases adjudicated by the Supreme Court, and challenged to speak on how she might decide future cases on important matters. She handled it all with poise and decorum, but without a single note! When asked, many hours into the Senate confirmation hearing, by Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, to what notes she was referring to answer sometimes multiple questions at a time on the most intricate legal doctrines and historic cases, she held up a blank note pad. She gave full, lengthy answers from memory.
The Democrats, as expected, attempted to get Barrett to answer questions on how she might decide cases on abortion, same-sex marriage, and the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Barrett refused to show her hand, citing the “Ginsburg Rule” established by Ruth Bader Ginsburg herself during her own confirmation process as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in 1993: provide “no hints, no previews, no forecasts.” In other words, it would be inappropriate and unethical for a judicial nominee to give any indication how he or she might rule on a matter that may come before the court before the matter comes before the court. Why? Because it may tip the hand to someone considering litigation, thereby throwing a wrench into the judicial process itself. It would also be a violation of the duty a judge has to hear all factors related to a case, and to make an impartial judgment based on the law rather than his or her feelings or beliefs. Barrett, while refusing to answer questions from Democrats on how she might decide, made it clear that President Trump never asked her how she might decide on matters and she never committed to deciding a particular way. For the courts to be truly independent and credible it cannot be otherwise.
There were surprisingly few contentious moments during the confirmation hearing. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who famously said of Barrett during her 2017 confirmation hearing for the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, that “the dogma lives loudly in you,” refrained from any mention of Barrett’s Catholic faith. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) had sent a letter to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the Senate Minority Leader, prior to the confirmation hearing warning the Democrats to refrain from attacking Barrett’s faith and spent considerable time during his remarks rebuking the Democrats, especially Feinstein, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who is running for Vice-President with Joe Biden, for their anti-Catholic attacks on Barrett in 2017. He reminded his Democrat colleagues that the U. S. Constitution expressly forbids religious tests for public office. This didn’t stop some protesters from dressing up in “Handmaids Tale” outfits fashioned for those of the popular Hulu series, while kneeling with their hands folded as if in prayer on Capitol Hill. This was a reference to Barrett’s being a member of the People of Praise, a charismatic Christian organization that Newsweek magazine, based on nothing whatsoever, smeared as being the inspiration for Margaret Atwood’s novel.
There is little the Democrats can do to stop Barrett’s confirmation as the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. She is certainly eminently qualified. In our current political atmosphere, however, being eminently qualified is not a serious consideration. Supposing how a particular nominee might or might not rule on a particular case near and dear to the heart of each Senator is all that matters. Gone are the days when Supreme Court Associate Justices could be confirmed with a vote of 98-0, as Antonin Scalia was in 1986. Doubtless, the vote on Barrett’s confirmation will largely be along party lines. This is too bad, for it suggests that even the highest court of the land has been politicized by our partisan system.
Perhaps the best moment of the day was early on in the confirmation hearing, when Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked Barrett how it felt to be nominated to the Supreme Court. Barrett admitted that she and her husband discussed the difficulties of accepting the nomination. They knew that she and her family would be attacked and their faith “caricatured.” She admitted to, for her mental health, blocking out the media, though she had become aware of some of the attacks. No sane person would undergo such a challenge if there were not a benefit on the other side of it, she said. Being committed to the rule of law and to service to her country, she didn’t feel she could turn the nomination down and expect someone else to go through such a grueling process if the difficulty of the process was the only reason for saying no. So, she said yes. I’m glad she did. We could all learn much from a woman of such faith, such fortitude, such brilliance, and such commitment to family and country.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.