WASHINGTON — Eight days after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, President Donald Trump announced Sept. 26 that Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a judge on the Chicago-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, is his nominee to fill that seat.
The president said he was honored to nominate Barrett whom he described as “one of the nation’s most gifted legal minds” to the court and praised her for her loyalty to the Constitution.
Barrett, for her part, said she was “humbled by the prospect of serving in the Supreme Court,” and said if she were confirmed, she would always be mindful she would be following in Ginsburg’s footsteps.
Noting she would be in a group of nine as a justice, she said this is something she is very used to, with her husband and their family of seven children. She also stressed that if confirmed she would “assume the role to serve you,” the American public, and she has no illusions that the road ahead will be easy.
Trump’s pick is not a surprise. The 48-year-old Catholic and law professor at the University of Notre Dame was reported to be on the president’s short list of nominees just hours after Ginsburg’s death and news outlets began announcing she was the likely pick a day ahead of the official announcement.
In 2017, Barrett, who had clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia, was nominated by Trump to serve on the 7th Circuit in Chicago and she garnered support from some for her responses to the line of questioning she received in her confirmation hearing from Senate Democrats that focused on her Catholic faith and on matters relating to abortion.
As a judge, she has not ruled specifically on abortion cases but as a member of the full appeals court she has voted in a few Indiana cases related to abortion. After several judges determined that an Indiana law requiring fetal remains to be buried or cremated following an abortion was unconstitutional, Barrett voted to rehear the case. She also dissented when appeals court judges attempted to block an Indiana law mandating parental consent for a minor to have an abortion.
In her 2017 hearing she said she would “commit, if confirmed, to follow unflinchingly all Supreme Court precedent,” adding: “I would not want to leave the impression that I would give some precedents more weight than others because of some sort of academic disagreement.”
Barrett has been married for more than 18 years to Jesse Barrett, a partner in a South Bend law firm who spent 13 years as a federal prosecutor in Indiana. Two of their children are adopted from Haiti.
She now faces the Senate process which includes public hearings, a committee vote and the Senate floor vote where a simple majority, or 50 votes, is needed to confirm her as the next Supreme Court justice. The Republicans have 53 seats in the current Senate.
Although the exact timeline has not been set, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, has said he hopes to hold a final confirmation vote by the end of October, just days before the election. Democrat senators had asked for the nominee for the vacancy to come from the president elected in November.
If Barrett is confirmed as a Supreme Court justice she would be the sixth Catholic justice, joining Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Neil Gorsuch was raised Catholic but is now Episcopalian. Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan are Jewish.