Nov 14th, 2020, 01:00 PM

Justice Wasn't Served

By Julia Orr
Samuel Corum for The New York Times / merlin_164596746_0cd714cb-72b7-4c84-a102-f1d5ff8ef058-superJumbo.jpg
Image Credit: Samuel Corum/The New York Times
An analysis of the new Supreme Court justice, Amy Coney Barrett.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stated before her death that her “most fervent wish was that she would not be replaced until the election of a new president.” Despite this, Amy Coney Barrett is the newest supreme court justice


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How is this possible? Who is Amy Coney Barrett? And what does her election mean for Americans, both at home and abroad?

First, the politics that occurred to make this feasible. Getting appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States of America is a tenured position. This means, once appointed, they essentially can serve up to the day they die. For staunch supporters of the Republican party, this was a huge success. Barrett is currently only 48 years old. This means she can serve around 35 years, as the current average length of time Justices serve on the court. There is controversy surrounding the tenure of Justices but the controversy with Barrett goes a lot further, into her past, into her present, and into our future. 

The New York Times states "A deeply religious woman, [Barrett's] roots are in a populist movement of charismatic Catholicism." She grew up in the South to a very religious family and followed their lead in joining what some may consider a cult-like environment. People of Praise, the religious group Barrett is still very much an active member of, is a "tightly knit religious community." Founded in 1971 in South Bend, Indiana, by 29 people, the group openly rejects gay people in all forms and advocates for extremely strict adherence to classic gender norms of what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman. Members are required to give up 5% of their annual salary to the group, submit to the leadership of a spiritual director and affirm a 181-word “covenant” that they frequently recite together.

“We will serve one another and the community as a whole in all needs: spiritual, material, financial,” it reads in part, according to the New York Times article previously cited in this paragraph. People marry within the group after a process entitled the "coming underway," where members either choose to stay celibate or date and marry within the group. Barrett met her husband whilst they both lived in the family home of the People of Praise leaders. The grammar used in People of Praise makes husbands the "headers" of their wives, which is an intentional placement of the man as the superior person in the relationship. Women are expected to be subservient, and as staunch observers of the Catholic faith, divorce is nonexistent in the group. "[The] Church does not recognise divorce. A marriage can only end when one partner dies or if there are grounds for an annulment. A couple may be granted a civil divorce and be divorced in the eyes of the state, but their marriage will continue "in the eyes of God."" Men and women are also each given a mentor of the same sex within the group who is their head until they are married. The women then are "headed" by their husbands, and the husbands by older male members of the group. While some members of the group like Dr Wang (part of PoP since the 1980's), who is married to a fellow member, compared heads to father figures, he also admitted it was advised by this "father figure" not to prescribe contraceptives in his medical practice. 


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This adherence to Catholic faith is present in every aspect of the lives of People of Praise, and they have every right -- according to the US Constitution -- to practice freedom of religion, so what does it mean for citizens of the US who are not deeply conservative, right wing Catholics that one of them is our new Justice? 

Starting off with her confirmation, which is extremely troubling for a multitude of reasons, we see some immediate red flags. One of the first is that in her mandatory discovery she turned over only 1,800 documents, compared to Justice Brett Kavanaugh's 1 million. Even in 2005, Chief Justice John Roberts turned over 75,000 pages of records, which was previously one of the lowest numbers ever received. The fact that Barrett can blatantly side-step this institutional requirement in turning over less than 2,000 pages is problematic in many ways; specifically, the court found she omitted both anti-abortion paid advertisements describing abortion as "barbaric" as well as speeches against Roe v. Wade that she had given. On a note outside of abortion, she also omitted the fact that she was the head attorney in a defense case where defendant -- a major Pittsburg steel magnate -- bankrupted a not-for-profit Pennsylvania hospital system. 

Outside of rare cases of voicing dissent and defending corporations, Amy Coney Barrett has never actually served in a court. She has not even completed the American Bar Association's suggested minimum of 50 hours of pro-bono a year, not merely falling short by a few hours, but never doing pro-bono at all. Ever. Not even during law school. So, why did Trump pick her? 


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Quoting an article from the New York Times, “Amy Coney Barrett meets Donald Trump’s two main litmus tests: She has made clear she would invalidate the ACA and take health care away from millions of people and undermine a woman’s reproductive freedom,” said Nan Aron, the president of Alliance for Justice, a liberal group. But having no extensive experience serving on any court at all is what is mostly concerning. She did clerk for Justice Scalia 22 years ago, and then went on to teach at Notre Dame Law School. She has spent her entire professional life in academia, which, while making for a good law professor, does not speak to her strengths as a potential judge. Trump nominated her to her first ever court position in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017. In 2020, she was nominated to the Supreme Court. 

Normally, judges work as a prosecutor, defender, solicitor general, attorney general, or at the very least serve as counsel to legislative bodies. Barrett has done none of the above. In her hearing for the 2017 position, she could not even recall more than three cases she had ever worked on. Nominees are normally required to provide extensive details on at least ten cases they have worked on.  


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This article is not meant to attack her character personally. She has adopted two children from Haiti, a fact she proudly mentions as often as possible. She is married to a federal prosecutor, who she met through heads of People of Praise, while they were living in the same house. She apparently does cross-fit-like programs at Notre Dame with other professors and has volunteered at her children's grade school. However, do these traits make her fit to stand as a judge? To replace the formidable Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg? I, personally, wish that we could have respected the late RBG's wish to wait until a new President was appointed before picking a new judge. In fact, when the Democratic party, at that time lead by President Barack Obama, wanted to nominate a new Justice in the wake of Scalia's death , Republicans stonewalled the movement and declared that it was impossible to declare a new justice so close to an election and that the seat must remain empty for over a year until 2017 when a new President took office. Just mere hours after Scalia's death, "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared any appointment by the sitting president to be null and void. He said the next Supreme Court justice should be chosen by the next president — to be elected later that year. "Of course," said McConnell, "the American people should have a say in the court's direction. It is a president's constitutional right to nominate a Supreme Court justice, and it is the Senate's constitutional right to act as a check on the president and withhold its consent." Yes, that is correct, the same Mitch McConnell that is currently still serving in government. The same one that literally voted FOR Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation, made a speech stating: "One of my proudest moments was when I looked Barack Obama in the eye and I said,""Mr. President, you will not fill the Supreme Court vacancy.""


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But I could write about Mitch McConnell and his shady professional record for pages, so let's stay focused on Justice Barrett. She has been confirmed in the wake of blinding hypocrisy and political power plays, and now we are all left to deal with the result. The most likely prediction is that this Justice will vote overwhelmingly in favor of right-wing, conservative, Constitutionalist policies. The only thing Liberals can do now about this Justice is attempt to influence other factors in the political system so that these blatant, hypocritical, conservative leaders stop holding so much power and control over the whole country. This means that we are left where we started, with voting, protesting, activism, and anger. But instead of feeling only anger and outrage at this nomination, as I can understand you may, I suggest instead channeling it into working towards changing our government so that things like this cannot continue to occur, and keeping, however hard it may seem, the smallest bit of hope that things will change.