48-year-old U.S. Circuit Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett is reportedly at the top of President Donald Trump’s list to replace Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who passed away last Friday. As such, Coney Barrett’s become a lightning rod online overnight for her past comments, rulings and writings — and her faith is coming under scrutiny as well.
Described as a judge in the Antonin Scalia mold, Coney Barrett is a devout Catholic. At Notre Dame, she once said that her “legal career is but a means to an end … and that end is building the Kingdom of God.” Such comments have been seized on by some critics as a sign of a covert religious agenda — Senator Dianne Feinstein caused an uproar in 2017 when she questioned whether or not Coney Barrett’s “dogma” disqualified her from the job — but Coney Barrett has also vowed to “never impose my own personal convictions upon the law” and said that she would “follow all Supreme Court precedent without fail.” While she personally opposed abortion, such comments would lead one to believe she sees the laws around it as set in stone.
That’s not great news for Republicans hoping that Coney Barrett might be the ticket to the overturning Roe V Wade, since she seems to consider Roe v. Wade binding precedent. But a 2018 article in the Washington Post put experts to the task of studying Coney Barrett’s actual writing, and they determined that her past legal views might mean she would support overturning Roe.
It’s hard to know. Coney Barrett was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in 2017 and had no judicial record before that to study, which means unlike a lot of her potential SCOTUS colleagues, many of her views are relatively unknown. She clerked for Scalia for several years before teaching law at Notre Dame, so she certainly knows her stuff. She’s also made it clear that she’s an originalist — intent on preserving the original intent of the writers of the Constitution instead of trying to adapt them for a changing world. She is, in other words, a strict conservative.
That said, her appointment will be a dramatic one. Republicans refused to let President Barack Obama nominate a new Supreme Court Justice in his election year, insisting that voters had the right to pick a new president before that president picked a new member of the nation’s highest court. Now that the shoe’s on the other foot, Senate Majority Mitch McConnell’s ideals seem a bit more flexible. Democrats are gearing up for a fight but most experts believe that if McConnell will be able to force the vote through before November if he wants to, no matter the outcome of the upcoming presidential election.