Supporters and opponents dig in over Barrett nomination

The support and opposition to 7th Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Amy Coney Barrett continued following her Wednesday testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

Barrett, a professor at Notre Dame Law School who has no experience as a judge, was nominated by President Donald Trump to fill the vacant Indiana seat on the Chicago appellate court. Members of the committee questioned Barrett about her academic writings and, particularly the Democrats on the committee, raised concerns that she will subvert the law to her personal religious beliefs.

In advance of Barrett hearing, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights released a letter urging the Senate to reject her nomination to the 7th Circuit.

The organization, extensively referencing Barrett’s academic writings and speeches, concluded the professor is biased against reproductive and LGBT rights. Also, the conference asserted she lacks deference to precedent and judicial restraint.  

“Professor Barrett’s activist ideology can also be seen in her disregard for the importance of established precedent and stare decisis, the bedrock principle of the rule of law,” wrote Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the conference. “…Her disrespect for judicial precedent is a dog whistle to the far right and reflects the judicial philosophy of the most extreme Supreme Court justices.”

The letter concludes with the assertion that Barrett’s nomination is “another disturbing example” of President Donald Trump taking advantage of Republican strategy to obstruct the nominees put forward by President Barack Obama. Former Indiana Supreme Court Justice Myra Selby was nominated to the 7th Circuit and would have been the first African-American and woman from a law firm to serve on the Indiana seat. However, she did not receive a hearing and vote.

Both Indiana Senators, Joe Donnelly, a Democrat, and Todd Young, a Republican, submitted their blue slips to support Barrett’s nomination moving forward in committee. However, Donnelly’s office said the senator has not decided how he will vote when her nomination comes to the Senate floor. Young supports her confirmation to the bench, telling the judiciary committee she is “eminently qualified” with the skills and temperament to excel on the circuit court.

Notre Dame Law School faculty and former students of Barrett have written letters of support to the committee. Also, U.S. Supreme Court law clerks who worked alongside Barrett when she clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia have praised her intellectual and professionalism.

The judiciary committee held a joint hearing for Barrett as well as Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Louise Larsen, who has been nominated for the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

At the conclusion of the nearly 3-hour hearing, the Judicial Crisis Network’s chief counsel and policy director Carrie Severino pushed the Senate to confirm the nominees.

Severino said Larsen and Barrett “are two of the most impressive lawyers of their generation and bring with them extensive experience. Evidently Senate Democrats have a problem with accomplished, articulate, conservative women. It’s time to end the gridlock. The American people deserve judges faithful to the rule of law, not to Washington special interests.”

The Alliance for Justice, which has been strongly opposed to Barrett’s nomination, called for the Senate to deny the confirmations of Barrett, Larsen and Eric Dreiband, who has been nominated to head the Department of Justice’s civil rights division.

In a statement, AFJ president Nan Aron said of Barrett that her “denials of some of her most controversial statements, including her positions that a judge may put faith ahead of the law in carrying out her duties and may disregard legal precedent, were especially striking. But Barrett’s positions are on the record, and AFJ and other have documented them.”

AFJ also took issue with comments from committee member Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. He did not refer to AFJ by name but did mention reports that, he said, mischaracterized the nominees’ records. The AFJ stood by its statements, asserting Barrett and Larsen’s records contain “numerous citations to original sources in which the nominees’ controversial statements raised at (the judiciary committee) hearing can be found.”

The AFJ was not the only organization to counter a senator’s remarks about its work.

The Alliance Defending Freedom responded to Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, who described it as a hate group. The organization released a statement saying he mischaracterized the work of ADF and pointed out that seven Supreme Court justices agreed with its position in the Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v Comer.

In a statement, Michael Farris, president, CEO and general counsel of ADF said his organization advocates for all people to peacefully live, speak, and work according to their convictions without fear of government punishment.

“There is a real danger of conflating genuine hate groups, like the Ku Klux Klan, with mainstream religious beliefs that are shared by millions of Americans and people from all walks of life across the world,” Farris said. “As a member of Congress, Sen. Franken needs to fact-check before parroting discredited attacks by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a once-proud civil rights organization that is now a left-wing smear machine known to incite violence.”

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