Law & the Courts

Barrett Vows to Interpret Constitution ‘As Written,’ Says Courts ‘Should Not Try’ to Make Policy

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett speaks during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Washington, D.C., October 12, 2020. (Patrick Semansky/Reuters Pool)

Judge Amy Coney Barrett presented her judicial outlook as drawing on that of former Justice Antonin Scalia, during her opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday.

Barrett clerked for Scalia in the late 1990s, has since worked as a lawyer, and is currently a judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Scalia’s “judicial philosophy was straightforward: a judge must apply the law as it is written, not as she wishes it were,” Barrett said.

“Courts are not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life,” Barrett continued. “The policy decisions and value judgements 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.”

Republicans are pushing to confirm Barrett to the Court before the November elections, a move that Democrats have vociferously opposed. If Barrett is confirmed to replace liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, conservatives will make up a 6-3 majority on the Court’s bench.

In her remarks, Barrett vowed to take into account opposing sides of each argument in a case.

“When I write an opinion resolving a case, I read every word from the perspective of the losing party,” Barrett said. “I ask myself how would I view the decision if one of my children was the party I was ruling against: Even though I would not like the result, would I understand that the decision was fairly reasoned and grounded in the law? That is the standard I set for myself in every case, and it is the standard I will follow as long as I am a judge on any court.”

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously praised Barrett during the opening hearing on Monday, while Democrats warned that her confirmation would set back women’s reproductive rights and threaten the Affordable Care Act. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) has refused entirely to meet with Barrett during the confirmation process, and called her nomination “illegitimate.”

During the hearing, Senator Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) said Democrats’ concerns about Barrett were unfounded.

“The Left slammed [Justice John Paul] Stevens for his consistent opposition to women’s rights; they called [Justice] Anthony Kennedy sexist and a disaster for women; they said [Justice] David Souter would quote, ‘end freedom of women in this country,'” Grassley said. “Their doomsday predictions failed to pan out.”

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is also a violist, and has served in the Israeli Defense Forces.


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