A Woman on the U.S. Supreme Court: A Closer Look of Front-runners Judges Amy Comey Barrett and Barbara Lagoa

SFLA Staff - 23 Sep 2020

President Donald J. Trump will announce his third nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court on Saturday, September 26. Trump had committed to nominating a woman to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who passed away on September 18.

Various lists have been released by Trump during his time as a candidate and in office, with fantastic picks to be considered. At this time, there is a short-list of two women, Judges Amy Coney Barrett and Barbara Lagoa, both acceptable to Students for Life.

Trump also nominated Neil Gorsuch in 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh 2018, who were both confirmed. Kavanaugh was not confirmed before enduring a character assassination, which voters have likely not forgotten.

The front-runner is Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who met with Trump at the White House on September 21. She has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit since November 2017. Though Judge Barrett was reportedly considered when Justice Anthony Kennedy retired in 2018, Trump reportedly said in a private conversation he was “saving her for Ginsburg.”

During her hearing, Barrett’s devout Catholic faith was questioned by Senator Dianne Feinstein, with regards to what role it had on her views. “The dogma lives loudly in you,” Feinstein claimed, continuing “that’s of concern.”

The exchange received much coverage and blowback at the time, including from more liberal outlets. National Review in 2019 published a two-part account of the hearing. As Judge Barrett’s name has appeared in the news again, such a confirmation process is once more becoming relevant.

Barrett was confirmed along party lines, by a vote of 55-43.

Her faith continues to receive negative attention. The New York Times in 2017 implied that People of Praise, a group Barrett is a member of, was the inspiration for A Handmaid’s Tale.

More recently, Newsweek, Salon, Slate, Reuters, and Refinery 29 have repeated this salacious claim. The first two issued a correction that it was not the People of Praise which inspired Margaret Attwood’s novel.

Such negative attention may end up backfiring on Democrats and media outlets.

Barrett is considered to be in the mold of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, whom Barrett clerked for. She then went on to work at the University of Notre Dame as a law professor. While her writings have been questioned by Senator Feinstein and others, they have also endeared her to social conservatives.

A 2013 a Notre Dame Magazine article writes that Barrett said life begins at conception.

Judge Barrett wrote a 2013 Texas Law Review article examining a “weak stare decisis.” The abstract mentions “stare decisis unconstitutionally deprives a litigant of the right to a hearing on the merits of her claims” and “suggest[s] that courts render stare decisis more flexible.”

Judge Barrett, 48, is from New Orleans. She and her husband, Jesse Barrett, have seven children, including two adopted children from Haiti. She received her law degree from the University of Notre Dame.

Another contender is Judge Barbara Lagoa, of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh District. She was confirmed by the Senate in November 2019, in a 80-15 vote. Lagoa, who is the daughter of Cuban exiles, was the first Hispanic woman to serve on the Florida Supreme Court, after being appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis in January 2019.

She also served in the Florida Third District Court of Appeals, from June 2006 until January 2019. Before then, she was known for her pro-bono work as a lawyer for the family of Elián González.

In the nearly 500 decisions Judge Lagoa wrote, she’s had no high-profile rulings on abortion. During her most recent confirmation hearing, she said that Roe v. Wade was “settled law” and a “binding precedent of the Supreme Court.”

Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, considered reliable votes for the pro-life cause, echoed such sentiments during their confirmation hearings.

Where she lacks on abortion rulings, Lagoa’s pro-life credentials are backed up by her proponents, including Rep. Matt Gaetz who called her “very pro-life, reliably pro-life.” She also had received support from the pro-life Florida Family Policy Council.

Not only does Judge Lagoa come from a swing state, she is well-regarded by the Florida delegation to Congress, including Rep. Gaetz and Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott. In addition to the support from Governor DeSantis who appointed her, Florida campaign director Susie Wiles and former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, the latter also an impeachment defense lawyer for President Trump, have advocated for her.

Judge Lagoa, 52, was born in Miami, Florida. Like Barrett, is Catholic. Lagoa and her husband, Paul Huck, Jr., have three children. She received her law degree from Columbia University, as did Justice Ginsburg.

If she is nominated to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, and is confirmed, Judge Lagoa will be the second Hispanic woman to serve. She will also be the first Supreme Court justice from Florida.

During a September 22 news conference from Senate Republican leadership, Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming spoke of both the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and of the future female nominee to be announced Saturday. “I’m looking forward to a nomination by President Trump,” Barrasso said, “who I’m assuming is going to be a woman who will equally be a role model for a whole next generation in the legal profession.”

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