SCOTUS Frontrunners: a Republican dream in the making
By Jack Castanoli
Shortly after news broke of the death of Supreme Court Justice and Feminist icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) vowed that the Senate will vote on President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court by the end of the year.
Despite the obvious hypocrisy in McConnell’s decision compared to the early 2016 death of Justice Antonin Scalia, McConnell has secured enough Republican votes—thanks to Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Cory Gardney (R-CO)—to be able to secure President Trump’s nominee on the bench. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) both vowed to not vote on a Supreme Court nominee until after inauguration day.
President Trump quickly announced that he will be announcing and confirming a nominee “without delay.” Trump pledged at a campaign rally in North Carolina that the Supreme Court nominee will be a woman. The President tweeted that his nominee will be announced on Saturday, September 26—only a little more than a week after Ginsburg’s death. Insight into who the nominee may be has been narrowed down to two women: Amy Coney Barrett and Barbara Lagoa.
Amy Coney Barrett
Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed as a judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the seventh circuit in 2017. Before her appointment to this position, she had a stint as a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, her alma mater. She has clerked for several conservative judges in the past and even clerked for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Despite her short time on the bench, her long track-record of conservative ideologies raises concerns among Democrats.
If brought to the bench, Amy Coney Barrett has the possibility to vote to overturn Roe v. Wade if the case is struck up. In a 2013 Notre Dame magazine article, Barrett can be quoted as saying “life begins at conception,” which directly questions the legitimacy of Roe v. Wade. Further, at Notre Dame she has described that a legal career should always entail “building the Kingdom of God”—clearly severing the separation of Church and State. She has written that judges shouldn’t be held to upholding Supreme Court precedents—like Roe v. Wade—raising troubling concerns among many advocates of Roe v. Wade and LGBTQ rights.
In Barrett’s confirmation hearing to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 2017, it was brought to attention that Barrett signed a letter in 2015 written to the “Synod Fathers from Catholic Women.” In the letter, Barrett states, “We give witness that the Church’s teachings … on marriage and family founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman … provide a sure guide to the Christian life…” The concern of the intrusion of Barrett’s personal views with that of the court is acknowledged in her clear disregard for Supreme Court precedent on LGBTQ issues. In 2017 she was asked whether she would consider any previous landmark LGBTQ rulings as super-precedent. She replied by stating that she had “not undertaken an independent analysis of whether any particular case qualifies as super-precedent.” This alarms many advocates of the LGBTQ community in that she can not definitively state whether she will abide by precedent in landmark LGBTQ cases.
Before being nominated to the eleventh circuit court by President Trump in September 2019, Lagoa was on the Florida Supreme Court appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Trump ally. Prior to the short stint on the Florida Supreme Court, Lagoa was an assistant U.S. Attorney.
While Lagoa’s career doesn’t include significant abortion cases, she has said on record that she would honor the precedent Roe v. Wade has set as “settled law.” However, President Trump has vowed on the campaign trail that he will only nominate judges who would “automatically overturn Roe v. Wade.” Furthermore, Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) has said that the Senate should reject any nominee that says Roe v. Wade was not wrongfully decided. This pressure raises concerns among democrats that she may change her position. Florida Family Council—an anti-abortion group—has praised Hidalgo and describes her as “committed to her faith.”
Lagoa’s length of time on the federal bench has been rather short, so little is known about her stances on LGBTQ rights. However, she is a member of the Federalist Society which has advocated for conservatives to pack the courts and undo the “judicial legacy of Barack Obama.” The Federalist Society has compared same-sex couples to polygamists in a judicial sense. Furthermore, the group has described the majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges as “lofty” and “aspirational.”
Jack Castanoli is a freshman from Elmhurst, Illinois majoring in political communication.