Justice Amy Coney Barrett
Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the U.S. Supreme Court on October 27, 2020, replacing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Barrett (Amy Coney prior to her marriage) was born in Louisiana on January 28, 1972 to a deeply Catholic family. After graduating from a Catholic high school in New Orleans, she attended Rhodes College in Tennessee, majoring in English literature. Barrett graduated magna cum laude from Rhodes in 1994 and then obtained her law degree from Notre Dame Law School, where she was an executive editor of the Notre Dame Law Review. She not only graduated summa cum laude but was the valedictorian of the 1997 class at the law school.
Barrett began her legal career with two clerkships in federal courts. After a year as a clerk for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, she served as a clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in 1998-1999. Barrett then briefly worked at a private law firm before becoming a law professor. After holding a visiting position at George Washington University Law School, she started teaching at Notre Dame Law School in 2002. She also published numerous articles in prestigious law reviews around the country.
Republican President Donald Trump nominated Barrett to the Seventh Circuit in May 2017. She went through her confirmation hearings in September and was confirmed by the Senate in October. While authoring numerous opinions on the Seventh Circuit, Barrett continued to teach courses at Notre Dame Law School on topics such as constitutional law. Trump considered nominating her to the Supreme Court less than a year later to fill the seat vacated by Justice Anthony Kennedy, but he eventually chose Brett Kavanaugh instead.
On September 29, 2020, Trump officially nominated Barrett to fill the vacancy created by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg two weeks earlier. With the 2020 presidential election looming, Republicans sought to expedite the process of confirming Barrett before a potential change in the White House. Democrats noted the apparent hypocrisy of rushing to confirm Barrett in an election year after Republicans had stalled the nomination of Merrick Garland in the previous election year. (Democrat President Barack Obama had nominated Garland.)
Barrett went through her confirmation hearings in mid-October, and the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 12-0 in her favor on October 22. However, the unanimity of the vote was misleading because the 10 Democrats on the Committee boycotted it. The full Senate confirmed Barrett by a 52-48 vote on October 26. She was the first Supreme Court Justice since the 19th century to receive confirmation without getting any votes from the Senate minority party. Barrett took the constitutional oath of office at the White House on the evening of her confirmation, and she took the judicial oath of office at the Supreme Court on the following day.
A conservative jurist, Barrett resembles her colleague Justice Neil Gorsuch in her adherence to statutory textualism and constitutional originalism. She believes that these schools of thought, both associated with Scalia, are closely related. Barrett has explained that textualism “insists that judges must construe statutory language consistent with its ordinary meaning.” She has defined originalism as the belief “both that constitutional text means what it did at the time it was ratified and that this original public meaning is authoritative.”