President Donald Trump has promised to name his second nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court as early as Monday.
And it may turn out his choice — a person who could help shape the law for generations to come — has been sitting on the 27th floor of Chicago’s federal courthouse.
Appellate Judge Amy Coney Barrett skyrocketed to the top of the list of conservative favorites for the high court after Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement last month. And she is one of four prospective justices already interviewed by Trump.
However, by picking the one-time law clerk for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, Trump could also ratchet up what is sure to be a contentious battle for the court’s future.
Barrett, 46, has spent most of her career as a law professor at Notre Dame Law School in Indiana, home state of Vice President Mike Pence. She graduated Rhodes College in 1994 and Notre Dame Law School in 1997. She worked for a week on Bush v. Gore, doing research and briefing for a firm that represented George W. Bush.
Her judicial career began in May 2017 — with Trump. He picked her for the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Senate confirmed her in October, and she has since written just a handful of opinions — the most notable revolving around the death of a hockey player whose family sued the National Hockey League.
Confirmation hearing on her nomination to Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. CSPAN
However, if confirmed in her mid-40s, she could remain on the court for decades. And while surviving confirmation less than a year ago, amid controversy, she even attracted the votes of some Democratic senators.
Among those critical of Barrett was the progressive Alliance for Justice, which called her “a judicial nominee the likes of which we have rarely seen: a person who believes and has stated that judges can and should put their personal beliefs ahead of the law and Constitution when carrying out their duties.”
But when asked during her confirmation hearing how judges should weigh their faith against the law, Barrett said, “It’s never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions, whether they derive from faith or anywhere else, on the law.”
In the most memorable moment of her confirmation, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, told Barrett, a Catholic, that, “dogma lives loudly within you.”
A Notre Dame University publication in 2013 cited Barrett’s belief that “life begins at conception.” The same article also quotes Barrett saying it is “very unlikely” the court would ever overturn Roe v. Wade’s core protection of abortion rights.
In a 2013 Texas Law Review article, Barrett wrote about “superprecedents,” — “cases that no justice would overrule.” Barrett’s list of examples “on most hit lists” included Marbury v. Madison and Brown v. Board of Education, but not Roe v. Wade.
In a footnote, she explained that scholars “do not put Roe on the super-precedent list because the public controversy about Roe has never abated.”
A 1998 Marquette Law Review article Barrett co-authored argued that “Catholic judges (if they are faithful to the teaching of their church) are morally precluded from enforcing the death penalty.” Still, the article said a judge’s mere identification as a Catholic is not sufficient for recusal.
Feinstein took heavy criticism for her “dogma” comment from people who took the senator’s remark as evidence of anti-Catholic bigotry.
When the Senate finally voted to confirm Barrett on Oct. 31, three Democratic senators voted in her favor: Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Tim Kaine of Virginia and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.