Barrett Would Put Personal Views Ahead of Law; Should Not Serve on Federal Bench

Press Release

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Carolyn Bobb

Washington, D.C., July 19, 2017- Alliance for Justice today released a report on the record of Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s nominee for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. AFJ President Nan Aron released the following statement:

“Amy Coney Barrett is a judicial nominee the likes of which we have rarely seen: a person who believes and has stated that judges can and should put their personal beliefs ahead of the law and Constitution when carrying out their duties. Specifically, Barrett has written that judges should put their religious faith ahead of the law in certain cases. She also has written that judges should not have to abide by precedent if they disagree with how past cases were decided. These views are so contrary to our system of democracy and justice that, in our view, they clearly disqualify her for the federal bench.”

Among other things, the AFJ report notes:

  • As a judge, Barrett could be expected to put her personal beliefs ahead of the law. She wrote specifically about the duty of judges to put their faith above the law in an article entitled “Catholic Judges in Capital Cases.” Among other things, she strongly criticized Justice William Brennan’s statement about faith, in which he said that he took an oath to uphold the law, and that “there isn’t any obligation of our faith superior” to that oath. In response, Barrett wrote: “We do not defend this position as the proper response for a Catholic judge to take with respect to abortion or the death penalty.”
  • Barrett takes the extreme view, unsupported by virtually anyone in the legal community, that a judge does not have to adhere to precedent if she believes a case was wrongly decided. This approach would threaten a wide range of rights and protections established by past court rulings, including rights for workers, LGBTQ Americans’ rights, and voting rights, in addition to women’s reproductive rights. Her views are completely at odds with the way in which our justice system works, and would make it unworkable if adopted by judges.
  • Barrett was cited in a Notre Dame publication for “her own conviction that life begins at conception,” and she has been critical of Roe v. Wade, stating that the Supreme Court “creat[ed] through judicial fiat a framework of abortion on demand” that “‘ignited a national controversy.”
  • Barrett signed a letter authored by The Becket Fund criticizing the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers provide contraceptive coverage as part of their employer-sponsored health insurance plans. The letter objected to the Act’s accommodation for religiously-affiliated employers that allowed them to avoid having to directly inform their employees about contraceptive coverage, and went on to say that the contraceptive coverage requirement was “a grave violation of religious freedom and cannot stand.”
  • Her belief that judges should be bound by their religious faith, not the law combined with her repeated statements rejecting stare decisis, the doctrine that requires courts to follow precedent, clearly threatens precedents such as Roe that form a basis for enforcing women’s reproductive rights.

​Read the full report online here.