Opinion: Now is not the time for Amy Coney Barrett to join the Supreme Court

“Today, it is my honor to nominate one of our nation’s most brilliant and gifted legal minds to the Supreme Court. She is a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials, and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution: Judge Amy Coney Barrett.”

President Donald J. Trump

This past week, President Donald Trump nominated Appellate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court. Barrett would be the successor to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the third justice that Trump has appointed during his tenure if confirmed. 

Ginsburg was one of the most brilliant constitutional scholars to ever sit on the Supreme Court and left a tremendous hole to be filled. However, Barrett, from an academic standpoint, is qualified. Barrett went to Rhodes College and graduated at the top of her class from Notre Dame Law. Trump quoted one of her law professors at Notre Dame as saying,  “Amy Coney is the best student I’ve ever had.” 

Photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash

After Barrett graduated from law school, she clerked for former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. After that, she taught law at her alma mater for 15 years. Barrett was then appointed to the 7th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals in 2017 by President Trump. On paper, Barrett is qualified to serve on the highest court in the land. 

However, reality is often far from the expectation. The process of confirming Supreme Court Justices has become more politicized than the founding fathers ever intended. Before the 2000s, a confirmation receiving less than 70 votes was considered controversial. In our modern political atmosphere, it’s a battle to get 50 votes in favor. 

The Supreme Court should not be a political body – it never was supposed to be. The Supreme Court was never intended to turn into the third representative branch of the federal government. Nonetheless, the tribalism that runs rampant in the United States has created a deep and ever-widening divide between Democrats and Republicans. As the animosity between the dominant political parties in our country grows, the Supreme Court will once again be the battlefield for ideological differences that characterize our nation. 

While judging a potential Supreme Justice, in my opinion, there are two qualifiers: 1. The ability to read and interpret the Constitution and 2. What the current layout of the Supreme Court is. Both of these factors have equal importance but are very different from each other. Being a good Constitutional scholar is very difficult. The Constitution was written over 200 years ago by a group of men that had no idea about the problems we would face in our modern world. The ability to meticulously study every single word and translate it into the modern world while still holding to the intention of the law is a daunting endeavor. I believe that  Barrett achieves this standard. 

Being a Supreme Court Justice is less about being a judge or lawyer but more about a person’s ability to be a scholar. There’s a reason why having a law degree is not a requirement to sit on the highest court in the land. Instead, the intention of the Supreme Court has and always should be to build a coalition of the most brilliant and impartial constitutional minds alive. 

Barrett is most definitely a legal scholar worthy of the court. While being the top of your class at a top 25 law school is an impressive achievement, it’s her time as a professor where we see just how qualified she is. Barrett’s students describe her as the quintessential professor. She demanded excellence from her students but in the same sense showed compassion towards them. All of her students knew she was very religious, but many have said that she never let that enter the classroom. Instead, Barrett demonstrated to her class the importance of impartiality in law. She encouraged her students to step outside of their ideological comfort zones and had them search for justice. Even if it was something they disagreed with previously. 

Some even more telling remarks about the type of constitutional scholar Barrett is come from her peers at Notre Dame. Trump cited letters he received from Notre Dame Law staff that spoke highly of Barrett.

“Despite our differences, we unanimously agree that our constitutional system depends upon an independent judiciary staffed by talented people devoted to the fair and impartial administration of the rule of law. And we unanimously agree that Amy is such a person,” the letters said. 

The law will always be a divisive topic that causes a passionate response from people. Of course, there are people at Notre Dame that unequivocally disagree with Barrett. However, even though there is a clear ideological divide between them, the conclusion is universal. Amy Coney Barrett is a brilliant scholar that is impartial in her interpretation of the rule of law – more importantly, she has a deep and sincere reverence for the Constitution and the ideals that it protects.

Even though a person is qualified for the Court, that does not mean they should be on it at this moment. I am a firm believer in keeping the Supreme Court as a non-partisan branch of the government. The addition of another Conservative judge would create a clear conservative majority (6-3) on the Court. More importantly, she would be replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was the most influential liberal judge on the Supreme Court. Ginsburg constantly fought for universal equality throughout the United States. She was arguably the most outspoken advocate for women’s rights that our country has ever seen. The two judges have opposite interpretations of many important constitutional issues. The addition of Barrett would have a monumental effect on the Supreme Court and the Constitution for our generation. 

There are many things that you could do but probably shouldn’t. Nominating Barrett at this moment is one of those things. She has every qualification necessary to be a Supreme Court Justice, but so did Merrick Garland. I believe that precedent is something that should be referred to whenever there are monumental issues like this. 

Only once has there been a vacancy this close to a presidential election. Abraham Lincoln did not fill the vacancy on the Court until after he won re-election. For a nominee that will have such a large impact, the American people should have a say. Their say should come on election day. The last thing that our country needs during a brutal pandemic and election cycle is another contentious Supreme Court confirmation.

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