Judge Amy Coney Barrett: A Brief Overview of the Newest Supreme Court Justice

Post Authored By: Stephanie Nikitenko

On September 26, 2020 President Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to succeed Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the United States Supreme Court. [1] Judge Barrett was thereafter confirmed by a majority of the Senate on October 26, 2020. Below you will find a brief overview to become better acquainted with the Supreme Court’s newest justice.

Background Information

Judge Barrett earned her law degree from Notre Dame Law School in 1997. She went on to clerk for Judge Laurence H. Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and subsequently Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. [2] From 2002 until her appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in 2017, Judge Barrett was a law professor at Notre Dame Law School; she remains part of the law school faculty. [3] Her pursuits in academia have focused on topics such as theories of constitutional interpretation, stare decisis, and statutory interpretation. [4] Judge Barrett is the fifth woman to serve as a Supreme Court Justice.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Judge Barrett has been a judge on the Seventh Circuit since November 2017, nominated by President Trump and confirmed by the Senate earlier that year. Her short tenure of three years on the Seventh Circuit has led to few noteworthy or controversial opinions. [5] However, she has signed on to several decisions that have touched on hot topics such as abortion, immigration, sexual assault on college campuses, and gun rights that have sparked controversy in the wake of her Supreme Court nomination. [6] The largest issue that has certainly come up during the Senate hearings is concern over her opinion on the Affordable Care Act.


Judge Barrett has said that her judicial philosophy is the same as that of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, whom she worked for after law school and has called a mentor. Scalia described himself as an “originalist,” interpreting laws and the Constitution based on what they were understood to mean when they were written.

In the October 13, 2020 Senate hearing in the proceedings for Judge Barrett’s confirmation, Barrett was asked to define originalism in plain English. She replied by stating, “So in English, that means that I interpret the Constitution as law, that I interpret its text as text and I understand it to have the meaning that it had at the time people ratified it. So that meaning doesn’t change over time. And it’s not up to me to update it or infuse my own policy views into it.” [7]

She has insisted that the “original public meaning of the Constitution is the law” and that “the historical meaning of the text is a hard constraint” that is binding on judges. [8]


Barrett’s confirmation required approval by majorities of the committee and the full Senate, both of which are controlled by Republicans. The panel met once more on Thursday, Oct. 22 and officially voted on Barrett’s confirmation. The committee approved her nomination. Thereafter, on October 26, 2020, the Senate has voted 52-48 to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

[1] Valerie C. Brannon, et al., Judge Amy Coney Barrett: Her Jurisprudence and Potential Impact on the Supreme Court, Congressional Research Service (Oct. 6, 2020), https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R46562.

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Jessica Gresko, Five things to know about court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, AP News (Oct. 10, 2020), https://apnews.com/article/donald-trump-religion-ruth-bader-ginsburg-confirmation-hearings-amy-coney-barrett-5bfc898d36072c4b9bf63646e1c91fa6.

[6] Id.

[7] AP Explains: Originalism, Barrett’s judicial philosophy, AP News (Oct. 13, 2020), https://apnews.com/article/donald-trump-amy-coney-barrett-us-supreme-court-courts-antonin-scalia-038ec1d4de30d1bd97a0ce3823903f0c.

[8] Amy Coney Barrett & John Copeland Nagle, Congressional Originalism, 19 Penn. J. Const. Law. 1, 3, 5 (2016); Amy Coney Barrett, Originalism and Stare Decisis, 92 Notre Dame L. Rev. 1921, 1924 (2017) (“[O]riginalism prioritizes what we might think of as the original precedent: the contemporaneously expressed understanding of ratified text.”).

About the Author:


Stephanie Nikitenko recently graduated from UIC John Marshall Law School in Chicago. At UIC John Marshall, she served as the President of the Intellectual Property Law Society (IPLS) and primarily concentrates her studies on the subject of Intellectual Property. She also spent a semester working in the JMLS Trademark Clinic where she assisted clients with the Trademark Registration process with the USPTO. Additionally, under the supervision of an attorney, she currently assists a law firm with both their trademark and patent matters.

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