W.When Christine Baglow moved from New Orleans to South Bend, Indiana two years ago, she found herself at a dinner party with a woman with an impressive résumé: former court clerk, professor at Notre Dame Law School, judge in the U.S. District Court of Appeal for the seventh circuit.
The woman was Amy Coney Barrett, and she and Baglow had mutual friends.
The judge was “incredibly friendly,” said Baglow. “I found her to be a very kind and very thoughtful person. Very nice and authentic.
“I probably had the slightest degree or education from anyone at this table, but to listen politely and get my opinion, especially on things related to kids and teens, I found it very nice.”
Baglow, 49, is the youth minister at St. Joseph Catholic Church in South Bend, attended by Barrett and her family.
“Not everyone with her educational level reacts to people this way, and she definitely has,” said Baglow.
Now as America picks up news of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, Barrett’s name has come to the fore amid frantic speculation about who will replace liberal justice and when.
Donald Trump tweeted that he would pick Ginsburg’s replacement “immediately” and then said he would pick a woman.
However, the presidential elections will take place on November 3rd and the early voting has started. In a bitterly divided country, the Senate Republicans’ rush to fill the Supreme Court position has become yet another lightning rod. On Sunday, Democratic candidate Joe Biden described Trump’s plan to occupy Ginsburg’s seat immediately as an “abuse of power”.
Barrett has had some experience with the storm. She was on Trump’s list of possible candidates in 2018 as he considered who would replace Anthony Kennedy, a retired judge. But the president had other plans for Barrett.
“I’ll save them for Ginsburg,” said Trump, according to an Axios report last year.
In Barrett, 48, Conservatives see a young, austere constructor who interprets the constitution as she sees it intended – a lawyer in the form of Antonin Scalia, the conservative judiciary (and close friend of Ginsburg’s), who died in February 2016 died and who Barrett worked for.
That the devout Catholic mother of seven – she and her husband Jesse M Barrett – have five birth children and are adopting two from Haiti – is viewed as a potential successor to Ginsburg has raised concerns among progressives. Many fear that if Barrett were confirmed on the bank, he would vote to overthrow Roe versus Wade, the 1973 ruling that protects the right to abortion.
Barrett is against abortion. And she has already asked questions about her beliefs and its role in viewing the law.
During a 2017 confirmation hearing, California Senator Dianne Feinstein stated, “The dogma lives out loud within you.”
Some said the comment was discriminatory against Catholics. But some who know Barrett said the questioning was at the heart of what makes her a good candidate for the Supreme Court, as her answers showed a dispassionate temperament and calm demeanor.
“Some of the senators wondered whether their religious beliefs could affect the way they interpret the law,” said a colleague, Notre Dame law professor Paolo G Carozza. “I just found it, to be honest, kind of ridiculous.
“Knowing her as well as I do and seeing her work is the only way that her religious beliefs affect what she does as a judge that you have the humility to say, ‘What I do, is all about the law and all about the interpretation of the law and the core values of upholding the rule of law and the legal system and nothing else. ‘“
As Barrett’s star rose, the media and Democratic focus on their views on abortion frustrated others in the Notre Dame community. Former student Alex Blair, now a lawyer with the Chicago firm Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney, referred the Guardian to a comment he gave to the South Bend Tribune.
“It was confusing to see that the smartest person I know is reduced to how to vote on an issue when they are so much more than that,” he said in 2018.
Carozza remembers Barrett as a top law student when he joined the faculty at Notre Dame in 1996. He said he found such questions from Senate Democrats unfair as Barrett does not write their religion in their opinions and is not to be proselytized.
“I don’t think it is unfair to question someone who is a judicial officer about their religious beliefs,” he said. “When someone says, ‘I will interpret the law as the Koran says or what the Bible says,’ that is something we would not want in our republic.
“What makes it unfair in her case is that it was only alleged on the basis of knowledge that she was a religious person, and not on any evidence in the things she wrote or in the way she was has behaved that could disrupt the administration of the law. “