Campus Life Editor
As a former law professor at Notre Dame Law School and a self-described originalist, loved by religious conservatives, Justice Amy Coney Barrett should be a master of constitutional law. As a law professor, Justice Barrett taught six courses on the topic of the Constitution, ranging from Constitutional Law to Constitutional Theory Seminar. It would be a fair assumption to believe that she has an advanced grasp on the Constitution. During her Senate confirmation hearing, Barrett even applauded the work of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and her civics program, iCivics, an online educational tool aimed at providing civics education to American youth. Barrett elaborated that she, too, would like to work towards educating the American youth about the civics process.
However, when asked to name the five rights granted in the First Amendment during the Senate’s confirmation hearing, Barrett could not. Barrett, in an unsure answer, timidly named four of the five rights (33:04), blanking on the fifth — the right to redress — most commonly known as the right to protest.
Now, had this been a high school classroom, such an error would be completely understandable — expected, actually, considering that the state of civics education in the U.S. is horrendous, and only four percent of adults in the U.S can name redress as a right outlined in the First Amendment. However, Barrett is not a high schooler in her government class; she was being questioned at the Senate for her nomination to the Supreme Court. Shockingly, as the most recent addition to the Supreme Court of the U.S., Justice Barrett, is not among the four percent of Americans who can name all of the First Amendment rights. As the newest addition to the Supreme Court, this mistake is unforgivable. The level of disrespect Justice Barrett displayed during her questioning about the First Amendment was shocking, disturbing, and deeply upsetting. As she fumbled to answer the most basic understanding of the Constitution, Barrett laughed at her misstep, as if her forgetfulness was a simple mistake. However, this type of forgetfulness, especially at the highest court in the U.S., is neither funny nor acceptable.
In her nomination acceptance speech, Barrett said, “[Justice Antonin Scalia’s] judicial philosophy is mine, too — a judge must apply the law as written.” Justice Scalia, known for his strict view of textualism and the originalist interpretation of the Constitution, had an advanced understanding of the Constitution and applied that knowledge frequently, despite it being incredibly outdated. At what point can a justice interpret the law as written if she is unable to identify it without hesitation? The answer is simple — Amy Coney Barrett is woefully unqualified to serve at the highest constitutional court in the USA.
With the election now here, and the possibility of the Supreme Court determining the victor in the election becoming a more realistic probability, the appointment of Barrett is as shocking as ever. Appointed a mere eight days prior to the election, Barrett has been strategically placed in a position to benefit Donald Trump, and the balance of the nation lies on a thin thread in between. For individuals like myself, who have previously held the Supreme Court in high regard, these are dark times. Although, it is pertinent to note that politics are like a pendulum, swinging one direction in order to simply pull the next movement the other direction. In regards to our political pendulum, my hope is that, soon, this rightwing hellscape will be pulled left, and fingers crossed that we make it to the other side peacefully.
Feature Image: Courtesy of Erin Schaff / The New York Times