How Amy Coney Barrett Would Reshape the Court—And the Country

POLITICO
September 26, 2020

Amy Coney Barrett has been a federal judge for just three years, but one thing is already certain: She’d mark a sharp turn from Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. At just 48 years old, the former clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia would lock in a long-term conservative legacy for President Donald Trump, who is expected to nominate her officially this afternoon. Democrats are already anxious enough about the looming 6-3 conservative majority that they’re openly considering expanding court-packing to counter it.

But what do we really know about her judicial philosophy, and how she’d rule on major issues? Politico Magazine asked top constitutional law experts and Supreme Court watchers to weigh in. They see a strong legal mind who could help usher in serious changes when it comes to abortion and other legal issues—welcome, or concerning, depending where your social politics fall. Others highlighted that Barrett would be a role model for women, even if not in a traditional feminist mold, and a strong voice for constitutional originalism. Some suggested her tenure might be less predictable than we think. How so? Here’s what they all said.

A serious scholar with a clear conservative bent

Tomiko Brown-Nagin is dean of Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School.

If confirmed, Judge Amy Coney Barrett will consolidate the conservative majority and shift the balance of power on the court decidedly to the right. She has called abortion “immoral” and written that judges are not always bound by precedent. And, consistent with the anti-abortion movement’s current strategy, she has expressed openness to hollowing out Roe v. Wadethrough state regulations. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made a mark as a strong supporter of reproductive freedom; she consistently voted against state encroachments on Roe v. Wade. A critic of Chief Justice John Roberts’ role in the blockbuster case that upheld the Affordable Care Act in 2012, Judge Barrett is likely to give the law’s opponents a sympathetic hearing in the case pending before the court. By contrast, Justice Ginsburg, a strong voice and critical vote in support of the ACA, would almost certainly have again sustained the federal law. On the question of gun rights, Ginsburg sustained regulations, whereas Barrett has questioned the constitutionality of a categorical ban on gun ownership by felons.

The contrast between the two jurists is evident on numerous other issues. Given the stark differences between Justice Ginsburg’s voting record and that of her presumed replacement, Judge Barrett’s nomination promises to transform the Supreme Court. That said, it would be a mistake to dismiss Judge Barrett as a mere partisan or a zealot; her writings bear the mark of a scholar who reasons carefully about legal cases and controversies. 

Read the full article at the POLITICO website.

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