Who Is Amy Coney Barrett? Meet President Trump's Supreme Court Nominee

If confirmed, Barrett would be one of the most anti-choice, religious conservatives on the court. She was also in what critics have described as a “secretive religious cult.”

Judge Amy Coney Barrett is nominated to the US Supreme Court by President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on September 26, 2020. | Getty Images
Judge Amy Coney Barrett is nominated to the US Supreme Court by President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on September 26, 2020. | Getty Images

President Donald Trump on Saturday announced Amy Coney Barrett as his Supreme Court justice nominee to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a champion of women’s rights and equality.

Barrett is a judge on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago and was nominated for the role by President Trump in 2017. She is Federalist Society-approved, Catholic, and a conservative crusader. As a federal judge, she has reportedly written about 100 opinions and "several telling dissents in which [she] displayed her clear and consistent conservative bent."

Ginsburg died at 87 of cancer complications on Sept 18. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell quickly vowed that the Senate would vote on President Trump’s nominee. McConnell has defended his decision to push through a nominee during an election year, contradicting his successful efforts to block a vote for President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace late Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016.

The president met with Barrett this week and came away "impressed with a jurist that leading conservatives told him would be a female” Scalia, The New York Times reported.

If confirmed, the 48-year-old Barrett would be the youngest justice on the Supreme Court. Her seat would tip the court’s conservative majority to 6-3, affecting law in the U.S. for several generations to come.

Who is Amy Coney Barrett?

The oldest of seven children, Barrett was born in New Orleans to an attorney for the Shell Oil Company and a homemaker.

She graduated magna cum laude from the liberal arts Rhodes College in Tennessee in 1994, just one year after Ginsburg began a 27-year term on the highest court in the land.

In the fall of ‘94, Barrett arrived at Notre Dame Law School, where then-professor John Garvey, formerly an assistant to the solicitor general in President Ronald Reagan’s Justice Department, was leading efforts to churn out conservative lawyers. A former faculty member of the law school told Politico, “They were trying to create a certain phalanx of people mainly to overturn Roe, but also to prioritize religion.”

Along with Garvey’s rubber stamp of approval, Barrett wrote a law review article that, as Politico reported, "argued Catholic judges should recuse themselves from capital cases because the church’s opposition to the death penalty presented an irresovable conflict with civil law.” The article also touched on abortion and suggested the case for recusal was even stronger in that instance.

In 1997, Barrett earned her law degree from Notre Dame. Barrett then went on to clerk for several circuit judges and eventually the late former Supreme Court Justice Scalia. Like Scalia, Barrett is an originalist, meaning she interprets the Constitution as she believes it was understood at the time it was written.

After Barrett’s clerkships, she returned to Notre Dame to teach. She was a member of the University Faculty For Life who, according to the group, “respect the sacred value of human life from its inception to natural death” and is “committed to the legal and societal recognition of ... all human life.”

Barrett currently lives in South Bend, Indiana, with her husband Jesse Barrett, a former prosecutor who now works in private practice, and their seven children, NPR reported.

What are Barrett’s views?

In recent years, Barrett joined a close-knit extreme religious group called People of Praise. Group members swear a lifetime oath called a “covenant” and are paired with an adviser called a “head” for men and a “handmaid” for women, according to The Times. (The latter moniker was active until Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel “The Handmaid's Tale” took off.) Critics have described the group as a “secretive religious cult.”

In 2013, marking the 40th anniversary of the historic Supreme Court ruling on Roe. v. Wade, Barrett spoke at a Notre Dame campus event. Notre Dame Magazine reported at the time that “Barrett spoke both to her own conviction that life begins at conception and to the ‘high price of pregnancy’ and ‘burdens of parenthood’ that especially confront women before she asked her audience whether the clash of convictions inherent in the abortion debate is better resolved democratically.”

A few years later, in 2015, she expressed her disdain for marriage equality, signing on to a letter distributed by conservative think tank the Ethics and Public Policy Center that stated, “We give witness that the Church’s teachings—on the dignity of the human person and the value of human life from conception to natural death; on the meaning of human sexuality, the significance of sexual difference and the complementarity of men and women; on openness to life and the gift of motherhood; and on marriage and family founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman—provide a sure guide to the Christian life."

During Barrett’s 2017 confirmation hearing to the federal appeals court, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) pointed to Barrett’s article arguing that Catholic judges should recuse themselves in cases involving the death penalty and abortion. Sen. Feinstein famously said, “The dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern.”

Barrett was ultimately confirmed. Although her stint on the bench has been short, she’s considered two abortion cases and ruled against abortion rights in both.

A seat through which Ginsburg fought so hard for equality and women’s rights will instead be filled by a member who appears committed to undoing a woman’s right to choose.