The Corner

Law & the Courts

‘Barrett’s Mixed Record in Criminal Cases’

Jacob Sullum writes:

The opinions Barrett has written in cases brought by criminal defendants and prisoners since joining the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in 2017 present a mixed picture. While she is often skeptical of the government’s arguments when it tries to put or keep people in prison, she has sometimes rejected claims by defendants and prisoners that her colleagues found credible.

It is clear from Barrett’s record that she does not reflexively side with the government in criminal cases. . . .

This seems like exactly the sort of record a judge should have.

Sullum closes with a quote from a Barrett dissent in a case challenging prison guards’ conduct under the Eighth Amendment.

The guards may have acted with deliberate indifference to inmate safety by firing warning shots into the ceiling of a crowded cafeteria in the wake of the disturbance. In the context of prison discipline, however, “deliberate indifference” is not enough.

That quote may sound callous out of context. But (based on my skim of the case) Barrett is accurately citing Supreme Court precedent here and following it, and the majority doesn’t dispute her point.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.