Republicans’ flagrant violations of the criterion they used to defend keeping Merrick Garland off the supreme court during Obama’s second term have contributed significantly to the controversy surrounding the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the US Supreme Court. The content of Barrett’s career and her potential decisions as a justice of the supreme court, however, has been eclipsed by her hypocrisy, which is a much more significant issue.
By her decisions on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Barrett has demonstrated a lack of concern for justice and a disregard for workers’ rights, immigrants, and the underprivileged. She has used procedural technicalities to defend denying people their fundamental rights in case after case, and it is obvious that she would sway the Supreme Court in an unfavorable direction on some of the most crucial problems of our day.
Consider the police. In response to police brutality, there have been significant Black Lives Matter rallies around the nation this year. The killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor have outraged millions of people. Barrett hasn’t done anything to address racial inequality during his tenure as a judge, though. She came to the conclusion that cops were justified in stopping and harassing a group of Black males even though there was no proof that they had committed a crime in the case of Torry, et al v City of Chicago, et al. Barrett supported the police who fatally shot a mentally ill man after his mother phoned 911 in the case Biegert v. Molitor, et al.
In United States v. Wilson, Barrett concurred with a ruling that police had a “reasonable officer may conclude from Wilson’s departure that Wilson knew he was in violation of the law” when the Black man fled from them while carrying a “bulge in his pocket” and being in a “high-crime neighborhood.” Furthermore, Barrett stated in Sims v. Hyatte that she would have held a Black guy in jail who had been convicted based on exceedingly shaky eyewitness testimony.
On other matters, Barrett’s stance has been consistent. Regarding immigration, she has made it clear that she will follow the executive branch’s ludicrous justifications for refusing visas to legitimate immigrants, without demanding that the Trump administration provide a basis for its choices. She has ruled against customers, workers, debtors, convicts, and consumers, so it stands to reason that she would do the same if the Affordable Care Act were put before her.
It is challenging to predict how Barrett would rule on significant issues if she were appointed to the supreme court because her body of decisions is not very extensive. However, there is strong evidence that Barrett, a conservative Catholic, opposes abortion rights and would overturn Roe v. Wade if given a chance. Barrett, a self-described legal “originalist” who also happens to be a devout conservative Catholic, almost probably thinks Roe was a legally flawed decision. (Even Ruth Bader Ginsburg expressed some skepticism about the legal foundation for the decision.)
One view of the law states that judges should be judged on their “qualifications” rather than their “politics.” Noah Feldman, a liberal Harvard Law professor, has endorsed Barrett because of her intelligence and experience and because of her point of view. Concerning Brett Kavanaugh, some of the same claims were made. It is challenging to come up with compelling arguments against conservative judges when considering their credentials.
After all, many conservatives attended prestigious legal schools and wrote for prestigious journals. I feel that this contributes in part to why Democratic opposition to Barrett has not been as vehement as it ought to be and why Republican hypocrisy has received more attention than Barrett’s record. Even Democrats, according to Mark Joseph Stern of Slate, have “privately given up” on defeating Barrett.
They shouldn’t, though. Even if Barrett is “qualified,” her views are strong enough to support efforts to prevent her from being appointed to the Supreme Court. Due to Barrett’s opinions, which are almost definitely far different from those of the ordinary American, the court will be even less reflective of the complicated and fast-changing culture in which we live. The supreme court judges do not just “call balls and strikes” like impartial umpires, as John Roberts memorably claimed; rather, judging is a political act.
Instead, they use decisions on issues that concern all of us to impose their own views on the nation. Conservative judges frequently make decisions that are less sympathetic to the comparatively weak. No matter which law school they attended or how long they have been on the bench, if you care about defending the legal rights of the weak, you should be opposed to the confirmation of hardline conservatives to the court.
Not because Barrett was nominated in an election year, but rather that she was nominated as all, is the main reason she needs to be opposed. Her track record as a judge on the federal appeals court suggests that she would make politically conservative decisions that have negative societal repercussions. To decrease the likelihood that she will be confirmed, Democrats must uniformly oppose her and employ all of the available procedural tools.
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