The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has given President Donald Trump the rare opportunity to nominate a third Supreme Court justice, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has pledged to hold a vote on her replacement.
The president’s recently updated list of possible candidates includes a number of conservative judges and legal figures who would likely tilt the court further to the right. One name that has emerged as one of the frontrunners has already been interviewed by Trump. A few others the president is considering have not yet been interviewed.
Here’s what you should know about Amy Coney Barrett:
A reliable conservative
Religious conservatives would have much to be pleased with Barrett, a devout Catholic.
Barrett has stated that “life begins at conception,” according to a 2013 Notre Dame Magazine article. She also said that justices should not be strictly bound by Supreme Court precedents, a deference known as stare decisis, leaving open the possibility that she could vote to overturn Roe v. Wade if seated on the court.
She could serve for decades
At 48-years-old, Barrett would be the youngest justice currently on the Supreme Court, making it entirely plausible that Barrett could leave her mark on a swath of cases for a generation or more.
A protégé of Scalia
Barrett clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia after graduating from Notre Dame University Law School. Like Scalia, Barrett is a strict originalist and would “enforce her best understanding of the Constitution rather than a precedent she thinks is clearly in conflict with it,” she wrote in a 2013 Texas Law Review article.
She can go toe to toe with Democrats
During her confirmation hearing to serve on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017, Barrett engaged in a contentious exchange with the Senate Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein. The California Democrat pressed Barrett on her deeply held religious beliefs and how they could impact her jurisprudence, which led to criticism that Democrats’ questioning was anti-Catholic.
“The dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern when you come to big issues that people have fought for years in this country,” Feinstein said to Barrett.
Barrett responded sharply: “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.”
She’d join a small club.
Barrett, if nominated and confirmed, would be only the fifth woman to serve on the Supreme Court. She’d join Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor on the bench.
Harriet Miers’ 2005 nomination was the last time a Republican president picked a woman for a seat on the court.
Barrett has served less than three years on the 7th Circuit after working as a law professor at Notre Dame University for nearly two decades.
Her short tenure on the bench means there’s been little time to develop a body of legal opinions, which lawmakers from both sides of the aisle would likely scrutinize. Republicans, having been burned in the past by GOP presidents’ nominees who ended up voting more liberally, would also likely demand reassurances from Barrett before granting her a lifetime appointment to the court.
Barrett, born and raised in New Orleans, is married to Jesse Barrett, a former assistant United States Attorney in the Northern District of Indiana. Together they have seven children.
“She’s very highly respected, I can say that.”