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Who is Amy Coney Barrett, Trump's pick for the Supreme Court?

Trump nominates Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court
Trump nominates Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court 02:57

President Trump on Saturday announced Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee for the Supreme Court seat vacated by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death. Barrett, 48, currently serves on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Barrett is expected to face a contentious confirmation battle in the Senate, as Democrats and some Republicans have expressed opposition to confirming a justice to the court ahead of the election. However, Barrett is expected to be confirmed by a slim majority, as the Senate is controlled by Republicans.  

The Senate Judiciary Committee must hold confirmation hearings with the nominee ahead of the confirmation vote by the full Senate. Although senators typically go home to campaign for reelection in October, members of the Judiciary Committee may have to remain in Washington for any hearings ahead of the election.  

Barrett has a conservative judicial record, and was recently confirmed to the circuit court by a bipartisan vote in the Senate. Here is what you need to know about Barrett, her life and her judicial record:

Early life

Coney, the eldest of seven children, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1972. She was raised a faithful Catholic, and attended St. Mary's Dominican High School in New Orleans. She graduated magna cum laude from Rhodes College in 1994, and received her juris doctor from Notre Dame Law School, where she was first in her class. She was executive editor of the Notre Dame Law Review and graduated summa cum laude in 1997.


Barrett clerked for Judge Laurence Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit from 1997 to 1998, and then for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia from 1998 to 1999. Barrett's clerkship with Scalia endeared her to President Trump, who considered her for the Supreme Court vacancy left by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy in 2018. After clerking with Scalia, Barrett served in private practice until 2002.

Barrett served as a visiting associate professor at George Washington University for a year before returning to teach at Notre Dame Law School in 2002. Barrett was named a professor of law in 2010. Her expertise was in federal courts, constitutional law, and statutory interpretation.

Senate confirmation

Barrett was nominated by Mr. Trump to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in 2017. Barrett's confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee was somewhat contentious, as she was questioned about how her Catholic faith influenced her decision-making process. Barrett said that she would abide by all precedents, and that her faith would not present a conflict of interest.

"It's never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge's personal convictions, whether they arise from faith or anywhere else, on the law," Barrett said. Senate Dianne Feinstein told Barrett that "the dogma lives loudly within you."

The comment became a flashpoint in her confirmation process, and the phrase soon adorned mugs with Barrett's likeness and T-shirts.

Barrett was confirmed by a vote of 55 to 43 in October 2017. Three Democrats — Senators Joe Donnelly, Tim Kaine and Joe Manchin — voted to confirm her.

In 2016, she told CBSN that she did not think historical precedent "establishes a rule for either side in the debate" over replacing Supreme Court justices during an election year.

What Amy Coney Barrett said about filling a Supreme Court seat in an election year 03:02

Barrett noted the differences between the confirmation of Anthony Kennedy in 1988 — the last nominee to be confirmed by a Senate controlled by the opposing party during an election year — and the dynamics surrounding Scalia's replacement.

"Justice Kennedy, you know, the arguments will be that that situation was distinguishable," Barrett said. "The vacancy did not arise in the presidential election year. It arose the year before, in June, when Justice Powell retired. And Justice Kennedy was nominated in November of the prior year. Moreover, he was nominated after Bork's nomination failed and [Judge Douglas] Ginsburg withdrew his nomination."

Judicial record

In her three years on the federal bench, Barrett has authored just over 100 opinions on the 7th Circuit. In June, she authored a dissent from a divided 7th Circuit panel's decision upholding a lower court ruling that blocked enforcement of the Trump administration's so-called "public charge" rule. She also dissented from a panel opinion siding with the government in a Second Amendment case brought by a nonviolent felon who was prohibited under federal and state law from owning a firearm.

Barrett's clear anti-abortion rights judicial record has endeared her to many on the right. Barrett, who has referred to abortion as "always immoral," has already been involved in two abortion-related cases during her three years on the 7th Circuit Court, both times regarding requests for the full appeals court to rehear disputes.

In 2018, when the 7th Circuit weighed whether the full court should rehear a case involving a challenge to an Indiana abortion law that requires fetal remains to be cremated or buried after an abortion, Barrett joined a dissent from the denial of rehering en banc authored by Judge Frank Easterbrook. In his dissent, Easterbrook took issue with a panel decision striking down a different statute that prohibits abortion based on sex, race, or disability. 

"None of the Court's abortion decisions holds that states are powerless to prevent abortions designed to choose the sex, race, and other attributes of children," Easterbrook wrote, adding that "there is a difference between 'I don't want a child' and 'I want a child, but only a male' or 'I want only children whose genes predict success in life.'"

Democrats have worried that Barrett could vote to overturn Roe v. Wade or cases that have expanded rights for LGBT individuals. During her confirmation hearing before the Senate, Barrett called cases which expanded LGBT rights as "binding precedents."

Democrats have also raised concerns that Barrett may vote to overturn the Affordable Care Act, as she was critical of Chief Justice John Roberts' opinion in the 5-4 decision that upheld the constitutionality of the ACA. The court is set to hear a case regarding the legality of the ACA in November.

Barrett was considered a finalist for the Supreme Court in 2018 after Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the Supreme Court, though Mr. Trump ultimately selected Brett Kavanaugh as his nominee.  

Personal life

Barrett married Jesse Barrett, a fellow graduate of Notre Dame Law School, in 1999. The two live in South Bend, Indiana, and have seven children. Two of her children are adopted from Haiti, and her youngest biological child has special needs.

In 2017, the New York Times reported that Barrett is a member of People of Praise, a Christian group. According to the Times, members of the group swear a lifelong oath of loyalty to each other, and the group teaches that husbands should be the main authority in the family. Some supporters of Barrett argue that questioning her faith and her activity in People of Praise could amount to anti-Catholic bigotry. The group is not formally affiliated with the Catholic Church.

Kate Smith contributed to this report.

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