When I served as the chief counsel for nominations to the Senate Judiciary Committee during the 2017 confirmation hearing for Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment to her current post on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Democratic senators could not find fault with her qualifications to serve.
How could they?
Judge Barrett graduated first in her class from Notre Dame Law School, where she served as the executive editor of the law review.
She clerked on the Supreme Court of the United States for the late, great Justice Antonin Scalia, who schooled her in the legal philosophies of textualism and originalism.
She had served as one of Notre Dame’s most widely acclaimed law professors for 15 years, where she still serves — in addition to her judicial duties and her and her husband’s shared duties of raising their seven children, one of whom has Down’s syndrome and two of whom are adopted from Haiti.
Judge Barrett was right out of central casting for her federal appellate appointment — and Democrats, who claim (but don’t actually mean) that they want more diversity on the federal bench should’ve celebrated. (They didn’t.)
Fast forward three-plus years, and there’s no question that President Trump hit a grand slam when he nominated Judge Barrett to serve on the Supreme Court.
Indeed, even the liberal American Bar Association (ABA) couldn’t help but rate Judge Barrett as “well qualified” to serve as a federal judge, both back for her nomination to the Seventh Circuit in 2017 and again for her Supreme Court nomination in 2020, which means the ABA determined that Judge Barrett was “at the top of the legal profession in . . . her legal community,” had “outstanding legal ability, breadth of experience, and the highest reputation for integrity,” and “demonstrate[d] the capacity for sound judicial temperament.”
Judge Barrett, according to the liberal ABA, was at the “top of the legal profession” for her “compassion, decisiveness, open-mindedness, courtesy, patience, freedom from bias and commitment to equal justice under the law.”
Judge Barrett hasn’t changed — and she certainly hasn’t gotten less qualified to serve. Even the liberal ABA just reaffirmed this.
Yet after Senate Democrats have long claimed a “well qualified” rating from their liberal friends at the ABA was their “gold standard,” they nonetheless attempted to argue in 2017 — and I predict they will argue again in 2020 — that Judge Barrett does not have the judicial temperament to serve as a federal judge.
How will they do this?
The same way they attempted — and failed — last time:
They will argue — again — that Judge Barrett’s Catholic faith prevents her from serving. In other words, Senate Democrats will argue that practicing Catholics need not apply.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Indeed, in 2017, Democrat senators argued that Judge Barrett couldn’t simultaneously be a proper judge and a faithful Catholic.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary, stunned even her own staff when she stated:
“The dogma lives loudly within you, and that is a concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.”
Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Senate’s #2 Democrat, grilled Judge Barrett about whether she was an “orthodox Catholic.”
And Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, allegedly a lawyer herself, condemned one of Judge Barrett’s academic writings by saying: “I think your article is very plain in your perspective about the role of religion for judges, and particularly with regard to Catholic judges.”
In 2018, California Senator (and now Democrat vice-presidential nominee) Kamala Harris joined Senator Hirono — both junior Democrat members of the Senate Judiciary Committee — in attacking Judge Brian Beuscher from Nebraska for his membership in . . . gasp . . . the Knights of Columbus, a 139-year old Catholic men’s charity that has counted amongst its membership prominent Catholic Democrats such as President John F. Kennedy and former New York Governor Al Smith.
Senators Harris and Hirono were roundly criticized — even from liberal editorial pages — for their anti-Catholic attacks.
Yet Sen. Hirono, recently maintained that questions about Judge Barrett’s Catholic faith are fair game.
These are clear violations of Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, which makes crystal clear that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
Expect these same Senate Democrats to not be as explicit about their anti-Catholic bigotry this time. Instead, prepare for their anti-Catholic dog whistles and outside allies in the media and liberal groups to do their dirty work — instead of senators airing their blatant anti-Catholic bigotry again in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing room.