American Democracy: a Look Inside the Confirmation of the Newest Supreme Court Justice

Is the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the United States Supreme Court a true representation of the people of the United States?

Maya Shields, Staff Writer

America: a democracy, a country governed by its people, but is the newest member of the United States Supreme Court a true reflection of the beliefs of American citizens? The sudden death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg created an opening in the court, only a matter of weeks before what many are calling the most important election in American history. The unexpected loss was quickly followed by political panic and a deep partisan divide over what to do next.

Should current President Donald Trump nominate the next Supreme Court Justice immediately, or should the nomination be deferred until after the election and its winner nominate the next justice? Ultimately, the question was answered when Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett to take the empty seat, and Senate hearings and confirmation soon followed.

When Prep’s AP U.S. Government and Politics teacher Mr. Arthur was asked what he thought about the reasoning behind the Republican party’s decision to do this he stated, “they saw an opportunity to put another conservative judge on the bench that could change a good deal of upcoming history for the entire American society.”

One of the most prominent concerns expressed by those opposed to the confirmation is its proximity to the presidential election. Senior Sophie McDowall explained, “it is hard to say that a supreme court nomination is generally the representation of people’s beliefs because our nation is very divided politically, so although Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination may represent some people’s beliefs, it might not represent others. Waiting until after the election for the nomination would allow it to represent the majority of people’s beliefs right now.”

While the significance of this confirmation and its timing in general is important, it is also crucial for U.S. citizens to know who Coney Barrett is, and what the United States Supreme Court could look like now that she has taken the empty seat of late justice Ginsburg. Coney Barret was a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, nominated by President Donald Trump. Prior to taking this seat on the bench, she was a law professor at the University of Notre Dame Law School.

Barrett is also known for her personal connection to former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, by whom she was mentored. Scalia was well known for his extremely conservative views, most notably on the topics of women’s reproductive rights and a public health care option. This personal connection creates concerns that Barrett would rule similarly to Scalia, threatening many important Supreme Court decisions like Roe v. Wade, and the Affordable Care Act.

McDowall, whose mother was recently appointed as a judge on the Seattle Municipal Court said that she learned a lot from watching the process of her mom’s appointment. “It helped me recognize the important role that judges fill in our justice system, and how important it is to have feedback from different groups. Although a Supreme Court nomination obviously has a much longer process, I see how events such as the hearings help people understand how Amy Coney Barrett would do as a Supreme Court justice.”

Barrett is a self-described textualist and originalist, meaning she interprets the constitution based on its direct language in an attempt to understand the intent of the original framers. As stated in The Guardian, “obedience to the exact meaning of the constitution without current context is problematic. These laws were made by white, cisgender men who enslaved other human beings and never intended to include a vast sum of Americans – like women and people of color – in their quest for equal rights.”

This senate confirmation took place as votes were being cast all over the country, so the question still stands: is the appointment of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett a true representation of the people of the United States? If the timeline of this nomination was moved back as little as a few weeks, the outcome could have been drastically different, and therein lies the concern.