Lady Justice takes her seat

Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana was confirmed and sworn in last night as the 103rd Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. 

The early evening deliberations and vote on the Senate floor concluded with a couple of stemwinding speeches from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Democrat Senator Charles Schumer of New York. Leader McConnell praised Barrett as “one of the most brilliant, admired, and well-qualified nominees in our lifetime,” and “an absolute all-star.” He praised her “personal integrity and strength of character,” noting that she would be the only current Justice who did not graduate from Harvard or Yale’s law schools, as well as “the first mother of school-aged children to ever sit on the Court.” “By every account, the Supreme Court is getting not just a talented lawyer, but a fantastic person,” McConnell enthused. 

Senator Schumer provided the low moment of the evening when he opened his speech against Justice Barrett’s confirmation by intoning that “Today, Monday, October 26, 2020, will go down as one of the darkest days in the 231-year history of the United States Senate.” Affirming the obvious – that Justice Barrett’s confirmation has been principally about abortion – and with no sense of irony whatsoever, Schumer declared, “Generations yet unborn will suffer the consequences of this nomination… as reactionary state legislatures curtail a woman’s right to choose.”  

And Schumer warned of the consequences to that “right to choose”:  

“Republicans would never dare to attempt to repeal Roe v. Wade in Congress [as if they could], so they pass onerous laws in state legislatures, that they control, to drive that right to point of near extinction, and then provoke the Supreme Court to review Roe v. Wade. The far-right has never held a majority on the Court to limit Roe v. Wade or Griswold. But if Judge Barrett becomes Justice Barrett—it very well might.”

A few minutes later, she did. The final vote was 52-48, with no Democrats voting for her confirmation and one Republican—Senator Susan Collins of Maine—voting against her.  

Justice Clarence Thomas administered the official Constitutional Oath to Justice Barrett at 9:12 p.m. on the South Lawn of the White House. 

Chief Justice John Roberts administered her second oath, the Judicial Oath, to Justice Barrett in a private ceremony this morning in the East Conference Room of the Supreme Court. Upon administration of the oath, she dove immediately into the work of the Court. The Court will next hear arguments the week of November 2nd; her first case, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service v. Sierra Club, involves the rather pedestrian issue of whether a Freedom of Information Act exception applies to draft documents generated by a federal agency. But arguments loom that week over a state’s exclusion of a religious foster care provider for refusing to accede to beliefs about marriage contrary to its faith (Fulton v. Philadelphia), and the following week features the much-vaunted challenge to the Affordable Care Act, California v. Texas. Although COVID restrictions have kept the Supreme Court from hearing arguments in court, they are available live courtesy of C-SPAN.