Putting Courts in Perspective

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by Christine Niles  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  October 12, 2020   

Judge Barrett: Courts, judges have limited role

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WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - Judge Amy Coney Barrett is placing the courts in perspective, reminding senators that courts were never intended to replace the legislative process.

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Judge Amy Coney Barrett appeared at Monday's

confirmation hearings with some of her family

In a prepared opening statement on the first day of the Senate confirmation hearings, the Catholic mother first spoke at length about her family, introducing each of her seven children and describing the circumstances of the adoption of her two Haitian children.

She also quipped about her marriage of two decades to Jesse Barrett, former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Indiana.

"I once asked my sister, 'Why do people say marriage is hard? I think it's easy,'" said Barrett, her sister responding, "'Maybe you should ask Jesse if he agrees.' I decided not to take her advice. I know that I am far luckier in love than I deserve."

Barrett then turned to the topic of her judicial philosophy, shaped by her mentor and former boss, the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

A judge must apply the law as written, not as the judge wishes it were.

"His judicial philosophy was straightforward: A judge must apply the law as written, not as the judge wishes it were," she said. "Sometimes that approach meant reaching results that he did not like. But as he put it in one of his best known opinions, that is what it means to say we have a government of laws, not of men."

"Justice Scalia taught me more than just law," she continued. "He was devoted to his family, resolute in his beliefs and fearless of criticism."

 
 

Barrett said Scalia also taught her to put things in perspective.

"There is a tendency in our profession to treat the practice of law as all-consuming, while losing sight of everything else," she explained. "But that makes for a shallow and unfulfilling life. I worked hard as a lawyer and a professor; I owed that to my clients, my students and myself. But I never let the law define my identity or crowd out the rest of my life."

She explained that a "similar principle" applies to the courts. 

"[C]ourts are not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life," said Barrett. "The policy decisions and value judgments of government must be made by the political branches elected by and accountable to the People. The public should not expect courts to do so, and courts should not try."

Courts are not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life.
This is the reasoning Scalia consistently put forth in cases he believed were wrongly decided because the Court usurped the role of the legislature. For instance, in his memorable dissent in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), Scalia slammed the majority for upholding Roe:

[B]y foreclosing all democratic outlet for the deep passions this issue arouses, by banishing the issue from the political forum that gives all participants, even the losers, the satisfaction of a fair hearing and an honest fight, by continuing the imposition of a rigid national rule instead of allowing for regional differences, the Court merely prolongs and intensifies the anguish.

We should get out of this area, where we have no right to be, and where we do neither ourselves nor the country any good by remaining.

Barrett explained that she reads cases from the viewpoint of the losing party, and asks herself how she would view the decision if one of her children were the party she were ruling against: "Even though I would not like the result, would I understand that the decision was fairly reasoned and grounded in the law?"
 
Judge Barrett on the circumstances of adopting her second Haitian child, after a surprise pregnancy

 
"I believe Americans of all backgrounds deserve an independent Supreme Court that interprets our Constitution and laws as they are written," she added. "And I believe I can serve my country by playing that role."
 
I believe in the power of prayer.
Barrett's hearings are expected to be contentious, the Democrat members of the Senate Judiciary Committee using Monday to blast the 48-year-old's record on Obamacare, which Barrett has criticized.
 
While a handful of Democrat senators raised the issue of Roe v. Wade, the vast majority focused their comments on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which they claim is under threat if Barrett is confirmed. The Supreme Court is set to hear a challenge to the ACA on Nov. 10.
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Notre Dame Law School
 
Legal commentators have said, however, that her confirmation would likely have little impact on the ACA.
 
Barrett closed her remarks with a quip about Notre Dame football: "I would be the only sitting Justice who didn't attend law school at Harvard or Yale. I am confident that Notre Dame will hold its own, and maybe I could even teach them a thing or two about football." 
 
She also thanked all those who had shown support by praying for her: "I believe in the power of prayer, and it has been uplifting to hear that so many people are praying for me."
 
 
--- Campaign 31877 ---

 

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