Amy Coney Barrett has recently been confirmed to United States Supreme Court despite her regressive legal positions upholding discrimination, xenophobia, and outdated criminal justice laws. As a staunch textualist, Barrett believes in interpreting the law based on its original meaning of the legal text. Her interpretation is problematic because many legal rules were enacted during the foundation of our country when legislation was tailored to white, land-owning men. Without considering the implications of the law in today’s environment, she is unable to effectively consider how laws might affect marginalized groups.
During Barrett’s time on the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, she ruled over a case concerning unlawful terrorization tactics. In this case, prisoners sued over their subjugation to cruel and usual punishment from prison guards that fired their guns into the ceiling of a congested cafeteria – an incident where prisoners were injured. Barrett sided against the majority who supported the right to file a lawsuit. In the dissenting opinion, she wrote that “the guards may have acted with deliberate indifference to inmate safety by firing warning shots … in the wake of a disturbance” and that “in the context of prison discipline, however, ‘deliberate indifference’ is not enough.” In colloquial terms, Barrett concluded that this incident was not enough to warrant a lawsuit based on the guards’ claim that their purpose was to ensure proper discipline. Barrett has proven in this decision that she believes disastrous actions are justified if they are executed in the name of law and order. This view is extremely problematic when considering the prevalent issue of police brutality against marginalized groups today.
During another recent case, the Department of Homeland Security attempted to issue a broader interpretation of their public charge rule that punishes immigrants who rely on public assistance. The previous interpretation of the rule pertained to immigrants who heavily relied on governmental assistance. However, the new interpretation extended the scope to those who were predicted to need governmental assistance in the future and added stricter timelines and consequences for needing assistance. In the court verdict, Barrett was the only justice that voted for this measure to pass. In both interpretations, the public charge rule penalizes immigrants who experience financial hardships – no matter how temporary. Barrett’s ruling indicates that she favors legislation that advances discrimination against immigrants that experience an economic disadvantage.
In addition to her judicial record, Barrett published a scholarly article in 1998 where she stated that judges “are obliged to adhere to their church’s teaching on moral matters.” One of the founding principles of our government is the separation of church and state, and Barrett clearly admitted that religious Catholics like herself cannot rule without bias. This statement is a stark contradiction of her recent statements that her religion would not influence her rulings. Impartiality is a crucial aspect to ensure proper justice in the highest court of the United States; Barrett clearly cannot accomplish this feat based on her belief that impartial justice is “something a judge who is heedful of ecclesiastical pronouncements cannot dispense.”
Amy Coney Barrett’s overall record indicates a lack of empathy and consistency, which is frankly quite disturbing. We need a justice who understands the plight of marginalized groups, interprets the law based on the current societal environment, and actually remembers five freedoms protected under the first amendment. Unfortunately, Amy Coney Barrett is not that justice.