Friday, November 10, 2017
Two days ago, Rick offered reflections on the successful confirmation process of Amy Barrett to the 7th Circuit. This morning in the New York Times, former federal judge Shira Scheindlin (now on the board of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights under Law) serves notice that the false assertions against Barrett will continue long after her swearing-in. Scheindlin's op-ed attacks several of Trump's lower-court nominees and appointments, including, sadly but I guess inevitably, Barrett.
There's the same old, willfully misleading claim that "[i]n a 1998 article, [Barrett] criticized the Supreme Court justice William Brennan for saying that his oath to uphold the law trumped any obligation to his Roman Catholic faith." For the umpteenth time, what Barrett and her co-author criticized (in a very indirect, gentle way) was Brennan's apparent suggestion that he would stay on a case and rule in a way that violated his faith. Barrett wrote then, and said this fall, that in case of an unavoidable conflict, the Catholic judge should follow her faith--and the law--by using the option of recusal that the law itself offers. That is the exact opposite of that Scheindlin and the other critics imply: that Barrett advocated ruling based on one's faith rather than the law. A former federal judge, more than anyone, knows better.
There's other wrong or distorted stuff in there, too, about Barrett's views on precedent. The same stuff that's been rebutted before.
So far as I can tell (and I haven't looked at it closely), Trump's nominees include a few strange and dubiously qualified names. (As well as some very strong ones, including David Stras, whose nomination to the 8th Circuit remains tied up.) Barrett is plainly among the very strong ones. But some of the critics will keep trying to stick her in the dubious group, not because of what she would actually do on the court of appeals, but because of their fears that (1) she is a dangerous symbol of a highly qualified woman who takes her Catholic faith (including the controversial parts) seriously and (2) she might get on a short list for the next step up.