Meet Amy Coney Barrett: She’s a Notre Dame Law professor with no judicial experience, limited courtroom experience, and plenty of dangerous ideas about the role of religion and the law, reproductive rights, criminal justice, and more. She also happens to be Donald Trump’s nominee for a lifetime seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit – which means that if she gets confirmed, millions of people’s lives will be affected by her rulings on the bench. Scary.
Our sister organization Alliance for Justice has extensively reviewed Barrett’s record, and believes that her “extreme views make her unfit for the federal bench.” After reading their report, we agree. We’ve put together five of the top reasons you should oppose Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Seventh Circuit.
1. Barrett thinks judges should put their religion ahead of the law
Barrett took issue with former Supreme Court Justice William Brennan’s statement that there “isn’t any obligation of our faith superior” to his oath to uphold the law. Barrett wrote that she does “not defend this position as the proper response for a Catholic judge to take with respect to abortion or the death penalty.” The bottom line? Barrett believes that judges should be able to put their religious views above their judicial oath to follow the law, the Constitution, and precedents of the Supreme Court and the Courts of Appeal. It’s a pretty unheard of idea in the American judiciary.
2. Judges are supposed to rely on precedent: Barrett thinks they can ignore it
Maybe you’ve heard of stare decisis. Stare decisis is the doctrine that requires courts to follow precedent. It’s pretty important within our legal system. But Barrett has repeatedly stated that judges should be able to ignore precedent if they believe a case has been wrongly decided. She’s written that it is “more legitimate” to enforce the “best understanding of the Constitution,” rather than precedent, if a judge’s opinion is that the precedent conflicts with the Constitution.
Maybe Barrett should listen to conservative icon Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on the topic. He says stare decisis “provides continuity to our system, it provides predictability, and in our process of case-by-case decision making,” is a “very important and critical concept.”
Barrett’s view that judges don’t need to follow precedent puts rights and protections established by past court rulings, like workers’ rights, LGBTQ rights, voting rights, and reproductive rights, at major risk.
3. Barrett would threaten reproductive rights
Barrett is known for her conviction that life begins at conception, and has criticized Roe v. Wade, blasting the Supreme Court for creating a system of “abortion on demand.”
She has also made it very clear that she doesn’t consider Roe a “superprecedent,” a legal term for a ruling that has gained such widespread support in society that it shouldn’t be revisited. Barrett says Roe isn’t a superprecedent because it isn’t recognized as settled law by society at large.
Combine this with her view that judges should put their religious beliefs ahead of the Constitution, and it’s not hard to imagine how Barrett would threaten Roe. Oh, and one more thing: Barrett also believes that “the Constitution does not expressly protect a right to privacy” – a critical right when it comes to people’s reproductive choices.
4. Barrett has criticized the Miranda doctrine, which requires police to inform those arrested of their rights, including their right to an attorney
If you’ve ever watched a police show, you’ve seen the part where the person who gets arrested is read their rights. They’re sometimes called the “Miranda rights,” after the Supreme Court case that determined that any arrested person must be informed of them. But Barrett has called the Miranda doctrine an example of “the court’s choice to overenforce a constitutional norm.” She claims that reading people their rights “inevitably excludes from evidence even some confessions freely given.” That’s frightening, because Miranda plays a critical role in protecting vulnerable people from coercive police tactics that could push them into incriminating themselves in violation of their Fifth Amendment rights.
Barrett’s record on other criminal justice issues is also problematic. In a 2008 blog post, she attacked the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s decision to change its sentencing guidelines to fix a big disparity between sentences people get for powder and crack cocaine. The decision was retroactive, so inmates sentenced under the old guidelines would become eligible for a sentence reduction. Barrett complained that the new guidelines would create a “host of issues” and strain on the court system.
But the Sentencing Commission had already considered the administrative issues and decided they were manageable. More importantly, Barrett completely ignored the effects on real people – the decades of injustice the old guidelines had imposed on communities of color.
5. Barrett believes in an extreme form of “originalism” when it comes to interpreting the Constitution
An “originalist” believes we should read the Constitution and try to interpret its meaning the way people did back in the 18th century. Barrett carries this view to the extreme. It’s pretty clear that a person who looks at the Constitution this way could decide that cases that have advanced basic civil rights for people of color, women, and LGBTQ Americans are unconstitutional. That’s a real risk with Barrett.
Heard enough? Check out our toolkit to find out what you can do to fight Barrett’s nomination for the federal bench, or get connected to your senator now at AFJActionCampaign.org.