It appears Amy Coney Barrett soon will have to adjust the title that precedes her name.
After just three years as a judge on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Barrett may soon be a justice, not a judge. Her appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court is all but sure to be approved by the U.S. Senate. We expect the Republicans who control the Senate to support her and would not be surprised in the least if a Democrat or two votes for her.
Judge Barrett would be the third justice named by President Donald Trump. He also selected Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
This one has been a rush job. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Sept. 18, and as we noted in this space two weeks ago, Trump wasted no time in selecting Barrett as her replacement.
She was a popular choice among conservatives, many of whom hoped she would be picked two years ago to replace the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Democrats have cried foul, noting voting was already underway in the 2020 election. They wanted to wait to see whom voters chose as president.
They are still angry that President Barack Obama was denied an appointment with more than 10 months left in his second term. He nominated U.S. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Merrick Garland to the high court on March 16, 2016, to fill the seat vacated by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia more than a month earlier.
But the Senate was then, as it is now, in Republican hands, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed to deny Obama’s choice from even getting a hearing.
It was an appalling, unprincipled display of power politics, but it was effective. The seat remained open for more than a year until Justice Gorsuch joined the court in April 2017.
That is how Supreme Court nominations have been handled in recent decades. The men and women appointed are thrust into a tense political climate that reflects the bitter divisions that exist in our country.
It’s not the way the process was intended to work nor how it was done for two centuries, but that is the state of American politics today.
If approved, Barrett, just 48, could serve for decades, shaping American law and life. She has been ardently anti-abortion and that is a major reason Republicans have been so supportive of her.
The judge has practiced what she preaches, being the mother of seven children, two of whom were adopted from Haiti.
Her youngest child, a boy with Down syndrome, has special needs, meaning Barrett has been exposed to the challenges and complexities of life and parenting.
She also was infected with the COVID-19 virus this year but recovered from it with no apparent sign of damage.
She has been tested in many ways. We think that will make her a better justice.
There has been some criticism of her faith. Barrett is a Catholic and is active in her church and through her beliefs, serving as a lay leader in the apostolate People of Praise.
“We knew our lives would be checked for every negative detail, we knew our faith would be caricature, our families would be attacked, so we had to decide whether those difficulties would be worth it,” she told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Senate Democrats were more outspoken about their concern about her placing her religious beliefs before the Constitution during her 2017 judicial hearings. That raised some eyebrows and tempers, and they backed away from assailing Barrett for her faith for the most part this time.
That was a wise decision. Americans of all faiths — as well as those who choose not to believe in any religion — have a place in our judicial system.
We also believe that all political perspectives should be represented, and there is no guarantee that Barrett would be a dedicated conservative. History tells us that.
President Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican, came to regret naming former California governor and 1948 Republican vice presidential candidate Earl Warren as chief justice. Warren became the leader of a very liberal court.
President John F. Kennedy, a Democrat, appointed Byron “Whizzer” White and the former football star became a member of the conservative wing.
Numerous other justices surprised observers and disappointed the presidents who picked them once they obtained that lifetime appointment.
Judge Barrett, a former professor at the Notre Dame School of Law, was impressive during her three days of hearings this past week.
She displayed an agile mind and the ability to handle herself well in the glare of the national spotlight.
Like other Supreme Court nominees, she was bolstered and praised by members of the president’s party, and sharply queried by the opposing side.
In keeping with the modern tradition, she deflected difficult questions, saying she would not prejudge an issue.
Instead, she said she would be shaped by the legal arguments and the discussion of her fellow jurists.
That was encouraging.
We see no good reason to deny her a seat on the high court. Donald Trump won the 2016 election and Republicans have controlled the Senate in recent years.
That gives them the authority to select justices.
In Amy Coney Barrett, they have chosen a qualified nominee, and a seat on the high court awaits her.