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Meet Amy Coney Barrett, One of Trump's Leading Candidates to Replace RBG

Amy Coney Barrett has been under fire ahead of previous confirmation hearings for her involvement in a religious group called People of Praise

The Associated Press
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This 2017 photo provided by the University of Notre Dame Law School in South Bend, Ind., shows Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Barrett is on President Donald Trump's list of potential Supreme Court Justice candidates to fill the spot vacated by retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy
This 2017 photo provided by the University of Notre Dame Law School in South Bend, Ind., shows Judge Amy Coney BarrettCredit: University of Notre Dame Law School via AP
The Associated Press

Amy Coney Barrett, a front-runner for the open U.S. Supreme Court seat U.S. President Donald Trump is pushing to fill, is a favorite among religious conservatives. Barrett was also a top contender in 2018 to fill the vacancy created by Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement and came under fire at the time for her involvement in a religious group called People of Praise.

As a judge on the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Barrett, 48, has voted in favor of one of Trump's hardline immigration policies and shown support for expansive gun rights. 

Trump said on Saturday he will nominate a woman to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, a move that would tip the court further to the right following the death of liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg and would make Barrett the youngest justice on the Supreme Court, giving her decades of influence over the U.S.' top legal body. 

Trump mentioned both Barrett and Barbara Lagoa of the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit by name as possible nominees.

Barrett, 48 and a mother of seven, was a former law clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia and a longtime Notre Dame Law School professor. At her confirmation hearing in 2017 to become an appellate court judge, Democrats peppered Barrett on whether her Roman Catholic faith would interfere with her work. They cited a 1998 paper in which Barrett argued that Catholic judges might need to recuse themselves in death penalty cases.

In September 2017, the New York Times wrote a profile of Barrett that included a look at her membership in a small Christian (mostly Catholic) group called People of Praise.

The profile does not use the word cult to describe the group, but according to Slate, it's "easy to see why some of its details alarmed many readers."

Ruth Graham wrote in Slate at the that "People of Praise members are said to be accountable to a same-sex adviser, called a 'head' for men and (until recently) a 'handmaiden' for women, who gives input on a wide variety of personal decisions. They swear 'a lifelong oath of loyalty' to the group."

During her 2017 confirmation hearing, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California told Barrett that dogma and law are two different things and she was concerned “that the dogma lives loudly within you.”

Barrett was eventually confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, after telling senators that her views had since broadened. She said it was never permissible for a judge to “follow their personal convictions in the decision of a case, rather than what the law requires.”

Feinstein rejected any suggestion that she was biased against Catholics, saying she was a product of Catholic schools and had spent more time in a church than she has in a synagogue. She then recounted that some 60 groups wrote her in opposition to Barrett’s confirmation. She said their main concern was whether Barrett would follow the law if she were to become a judge.

Here are some of her most notable opinions:

GUNS

Barrett indicated support for gun rights in a March 2019 dissenting opinion.

She was part of a three-judge panel that considered a challenge to a federal law that bars people convicted of felonies from owning firearms. A businessman who had pleaded guilty to mail fraud argued the law was unconstitutional as applied to him.

The two other judges, both appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan, said the federal law and a similar Wisconsin one were constitutional.

In a dissent, Barrett said that, absent evidence the man was violent, permanently disqualifying him from owning a gun violated the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

"History is consistent with common sense: it demonstrates that legislatures have the power to prohibit dangerous people from possessing guns," Barrett wrote. "But that power extends only to people who are dangerous."

ABORTION

Abortion rights groups have expressed concern that if appointed, Barrett could help overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

Although Barrett has not ruled directly on abortion as a judge, she has cast votes signaling opposition to rulings that struck down abortion-related restrictions.

In 2016, Indiana passed a law requiring that fetal remains be buried or cremated after an abortion.

After some judges found the law unconstitutional, Barrett voted in favor of rehearing the case. She was outnumbered, but the Supreme Court later reinstated the Indiana law.

In 2019, Barrett voted to rehear a panel's ruling that upheld a challenge to another Republican-backed Indiana abortion law. The Indiana measure would require that parents be notified when a girl under 18 is seeking an abortion even in situations in which she has asked a court to provide consent instead of her parents.

The Supreme Court ordered in July that the case be reconsidered.

IMMIGRATION

In June, Barrett said in a dissenting opinion that she would have let one of Trump’s hardline immigration policies go forward in Illinois.

The litigation was over the "public charge" rule, a policy of denying legal permanent residency to certain immigrants deemed likely to require government assistance in the future.

Barrett dissented when a three-judge panel voted to halt the policy in Illinois.

Haaretz contributed to this article

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