Senator Patrick Leahy on Tuesday asked Judge Amy Coney Barrett to recuse herself in advance from any potential Supreme Court cases that deal with the outcome of the presidential election, saying the circumstances of her nomination by President Trump cast doubt on her impartiality.
“When the president declares he needs his nominee to secure his reelection, and then the nominee is rammed through the Senate in record time during the middle of an election, some are going to question that nominee’s impartiality,” Leahy said during the second day of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
“To protect confidence in both you and the Court, would you commit to recuse yourself from any dispute that arises out of the 2020 presidential election?” the Vermont Democrat asked Barrett.
Barrett responded by saying she could not make such a commitment on the spot without going through the process by which other justices have made recusal decisions.
“I recently read a description by Justice Ginsberg of the process that Supreme Court justices go through in deciding whether to recuse, and it involves not only reading the statute, looking at the precedent, consulting counsel if necessary, but the crucial last step is that while it is always the decision of an individual justice, it always happens after consultation with the full court,” Barrett said. “I can’t offer an option on recusal without short-circuiting that entire process.”
Barrett added that she could commit to “fully and faithfully applying the law of recusal” including taking into account “any appearance questions” that will factor into “whether the circumstances require my recusal or not.”
“But I can’t offer legal conclusion right now about the outcome of the decision I would reach,” she said.
Barrett also stated that she has not made any other commitments regarding how she would decide cases.
“Let me be clear. I have made no commitment to anyone, not in this Senate, not over at the White House about how I would decide any case,” she said.
President Trump has said that the results of the November election could likely come before the Supreme Court, in which case it would need all nine justices to reach a conclusion. Adding Barrett to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would strengthen the Court’s conservative majority even more.
“This president has not been subtle and he expects his nominee to side with him on the election issues,” Leahy said. “Whether you like it or not, and I suspect you probably do not, the president has placed both you and the Supreme Court in the worst of positions.”