By Emily Cousins | Staff Writer
Almost immediately after Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg died, the Senate and President Donald Trump made clear they were going to push to fill the empty seat with a conservative justice.
Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett to fill the seat. Barrett has answered the Senate Judiciary Committee’s questions during the four days of confirmation hearings, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel has announced that they will vote to confirm Barrett on Oct. 30.
The lack of respect during the confirmation hearings has been apparent. As soon as Trump spoke about nominating a new justice, many Republican senators made it clear they would confirm whoever was nominated. The Democratic members of the judiciary committee did their best to ask questions to show Barrett is not the right option, but this will likely not affect what Republicans will decide to do.
Not only are the Republicans not taking it seriously, but Barrett herself is not respecting the process either.
Senator John Cornyn asked what notes she was using to answer her questions, and she held up a blank notepad. Cornyn said he was impressed, and the Republicans went crazy with compliments about her intellect, however, later she couldn’t answer what the five freedoms were in the First Amendment.
Even if she had answered everything perfectly without notes, she still would be disrespecting the position of a Supreme Court Justice. This is a position that is held usually for the rest of someone’s life. It’s the highest court in the land, and she isn’t taking it seriously. She has showed up to these hearings knowing full well they are just a courtesy, and she doesn’t care.
Many people are excited about Barrett being the nominee; citing that she is a former law professor at Notre Dame and her experience as a judge and attorney. Conservatives specifically have high support for her because her mentor was former Justice Antonin Scalia, with whom she shares a similar ideology and view of the law.
On the surface, it is clear Barrett is an intelligent and qualified person; however, she is not a good fit for the Supreme Court and will interpret the law in a way that is harmful to minorities, women and the poor.
Barrett has made it clear she is an originalist when it comes to interpreting the law.
“So in English, that means that I interpret the Constitution as a law, that I interpret its text as text and I understand it to have the meaning that it had at the time people ratified it. So that meaning doesn’t change over time. And it’s not up to me to update it or infuse my own policy views into it,” Barrett said on Oct. 13 during the second day of confirmation hearings.
Like Justice Scalia, Barrett places an importance on what the text says and not changing it to mean something new or different based on her views. However, everyone has biases, and the Constitution is not exactly cut and dry, so interpretation beyond what words are on the page is not only going to happen, it’s necessary.
Sometimes originalists say they read the Constitution based on what the original intent was of the Founding Fathers, however, it’s possible the Founding Fathers intended for the Constitution to be flexible so that it could adjust to change over time. There is not an easy way to know for sure their intent.
The opposite of originalism is viewing the Constitution as living and changing over time. The reason this interpretation tends to lean more liberal is because the Constitution was not inclusive of people of color, women or the poor. The only people who had the right to vote at first were white men with property.
Keeping this in mind, the Founding Fathers were elite and educated white men. They set up the electoral college because they were afraid uneducated people would not be able to vote as logically.
Knowing that the Founding Fathers most likely carried these ideas of elitism means that if the law is only interpreted as text and not a living document, that puts many people at risk and starts to lead down a path that would end up taking away rights of oppressed people and groups.
If Barrett is confirmed, she will be the piece of the puzzle that makes the Supreme Court primarily conservative. There is already discussion from Republicans about the hope that with Barrett, the Affordable Care Act will be taken away, abortion and gay marriage will be illegal, and Dreamers will be deported.
This is what is at risk if Barrett is confirmed. Minority rights are on the line.
Barrett has made it known that her religion is extremely important. Her Catholic faith encompasses her life and her decisions, and she has been known to advocate for the importance of implementing religion into the law in the past, even though at the confirmation hearings she said she would never let religion affect her interpretation of the law.
She was a paid speaker five times at the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, a summer training program dedicated to preparing Christian law students for their careers. The program teaches law students how God can use them through their jobs as judges, lawyers and professors.
Barrett also directly told students at Notre Dame in 2006 in her commencement speech to center their careers as lawyers around God, which would be contradictory to saying she wouldn’t let her personal and religious beliefs tamper with her interpretation and ruling of the law.
“I’m just going to identify one way in which I hope that you, as graduates of Notre Dame, will fulfill the promise of being a different kind of lawyer. And that is this: that you will always keep in mind that your legal career is but a means to an end, and as Father Jenkins told you this morning, that end is building the kingdom of God,” Barrett said in her commencement speech.
The only thing left for us to do is to get in contact with our state senators and voice our concerns to them. We have to make a wave big enough to show them they will be voted out if they confirm Barrett to the Supreme Court.
The LGBTQ community. BIPOC. Women. People living in poverty. These people are our fellow neighbors, family members and friends. More than that, they are human, and we have to protect their and our rights from a conservative power grab in the supreme court.
The American people’s lives are depending on the fairness of democracy. We have to fight for it.
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