Cal. Litig. 2021, Volume 34, Number 3

She’s No Rookie: Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett Emerges as a Key Influencer in Her First Term

By James Azadian

James Azadian is a Member in the Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. offices of Dykema Gossett LLP. He heads the firm’s California Appellate Practice and also serves as the co-leader of the firm’s nationwide Appellate and Critical Motion Practice.

Amy Coney Barrett is the fifth woman to join the Supreme Court, the second female justice nominated by a Republican president, and the first woman to fill a vacancy created by another woman on the Court, with the passing of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She is also the first justice who is the mother of school-aged children (seven, to be exact) and, as noted by then-Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, "this is the first time in American history that we’ve nominated a woman who’s unashamedly pro-life and embraces her faith without apology." Of the current justices, Justice Barrett is the only one who did not receive her law degree from Harvard or Yale, and the only justice in the Court’s history to graduate from Notre Dame Law School.

Before Justice Barrett was nominated to the Supreme Court, she served as a law clerk to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, as a law professor at her alma mater, and as a federal court of appeals judge. During her circuit judge confirmation hearing in 2017, her name made headlines when certain senators pressed about her faith and how it may impact her forthcoming jurisprudence. "The dogma lives loudly within you," California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein sternly told Barrett during the hearing. Those comments were widely criticized as showing religious bigotry in the Senate’s consideration of Barrett for the circuit post. Undeterred, Barrett responded: "I would never impose my own personal convictions upon the law."

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