by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Like many other liberals, I’m devastated by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, which opened the way for President Donald Trump to nominate a third Supreme Court justice in his first term. And I’m revolted by the hypocrisy of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s willingness to confirm Trump’s nominee after refusing to even allow a vote on Judge Merrick Garland.
Yet these political judgments need to be distinguished from a separate question: what to think about Judge Amy Coney Barrett, whom Trump has told associates he plans to nominate. And here I want to be extremely clear. Regardless of what you or I may think of the circumstances of this nomination, Barrett is highly qualified to serve on the Supreme Court.
I disagree with much of her judicial philosophy and expect to disagree with many, maybe even most of her future votes and opinions. Yet despite this disagreement, I know her to be a brilliant and conscientious lawyer who will analyze and decide cases in good faith, applying the jurisprudential principles to which she is committed. Those are the basic criteria for being a good justice. Barrett meets and exceeds them.
I got to know Barrett more than 20 years ago when we clerked at the Supreme Court during the 1998-99 term. Of the thirty-some clerks that year, all of whom had graduated at the top of their law school classes and done prestigious appellate clerkships before coming to work at the court, Barrett stood out. Measured subjectively and unscientifically by pure legal acumen, she was one of the two strongest lawyers. …
… Barrett, a textualist who was working for a textualist, Justice Antonin Scalia, had the ability to bring logic and order to disorder and complexity. You can’t be a good textualist without that. …