5 things you need to know about Amy Coney Barrett, Trump's likely Supreme Court nominee
Amy Coney Barrett of South Bend, Indiana, may soon become a household name.
Barrett was on the shortlist to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy when he retired in 2018. Trump instead chose conservative judge Brett Kavanaugh.
Here's what you need to know about Barrett:
A dedicated mother of seven
Barrett, 48, was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her mother was a French teacher and her father was a lawyer. After graduating from the University of Notre Dame's law school at the top of her class, she worked as a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and other federal court justices before returning to her alma mater as a law teacher.
Barrett has been described by colleagues and friends as a dedicated mom of seven children, two of whom were adopted from Haiti. Her youngest child has Down Syndrome.
In October 2017, with just an hour to go until she was voted into the 7th District Court of Appeals by the U.S. Senate, Barrett was outside trick-or-treating with her kids.
A lightning rod on abortion issue
Barrett’s strong Catholic faith has placed her firmly in the eye of the national debate over who will replace Ginsburg, and what ideology the new judge will bring.
Her confirmation hearing in 2017 became a lightning rod for conservative outcry after California Sen. Dianne Feinstein questioned whether or not Barrett could separate her religious faith from her duty as a judge. "The dogma lives loudly within you," Feinstein said during the hearing. Barrett insisted that her professional beliefs and her religious beliefs would be kept separate.
Amy Coney Barrett: What she said about politics in courts
Three years later, Barrett's rulings have invited similar questions. But those who know her say it's unfair to narrowly define her. “It’s been disorienting to see the smartest person I know reduced to how she might vote on [abortion], when she is so much more than that,” Alex Blair, an attorney and one of Barrett's former University of Notre Dame students, told the South Bend Tribune.
Active in South Bend community
At her home in South Bend, Barrett is far from a polemic figure. She is an active community member who is highly regarded by students and staff at Notre Dame.
Barrett was named "Distinguished Professor of the Year" three separate years, a title decided by students. She is also active in the community, having held a board position at South Bend's Trinity School, and a spot on the St. Joseph Catholic Church Parish Pastoral Council.
Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins issued a statement on Saturday praising Barrett as a potential pick for the Supreme Court. "The same impressive intellect, character and temperament that made Professor Barrett a successful nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals would serve her equally well as a nominee for the nation's highest court," said Jenkins.
Controversy surrounds religious group
Barrett is part of a Christian religious group called People of Praise that started in South Bend and now has a presence across the U.S. and in Canada and Jamaica. The group itself is not a church, but its members follow a movement called “charismatic renewal” and believe in speaking in tongues and miracle healings.
They have been scrutinized in the media for using the title “handmaiden” to describe their women leaders, and for exerting control over the personal lives of their members. Leaders of the group say they mostly function as a support network for their members and deny having any influence over the decisions of members in positions of power, like Barrett.
Stands on immigration, abortion
In her three years as a judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Barrett has authored more than 100 opinions on cases that have come to her desk from across the Midwest.
In a case from June 2020 she was the sole voice on a three-judge panel that supported allowing federal enforcement of Trump’s public charge immigration law in Illinois, which prevents immigrants from getting legal residency in the United States if they rely on public benefits like food stamps or housing vouchers.
She also called for the re-hearing of a case that struck down former Indiana Gov. Mike Pence's 2016 abortion law, which prohibited abortions if the fetus was disabled.
Contact IndyStar courts reporter Johnny Magdaleno at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-273-3188.