Got one last SCOTUS update for y’all, hopefully for quite some time! Yesterday morning, Justice Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in at the Supreme Court in a ceremony attended by all the Justices except for Breyer (who joined by phone). She moved in chambers and begins work immediately.
Senate Democrats have chosen an Instagram moment over substantive political engagement – a whimper instead of the flash-bang tactics of past Supreme Court nomination proceedings. The boycott – like the walkout they conducted after the committee’s approval of Justice Brett Kavanaugh – may have been less combustive than past antics, but it was not more high-minded. One can only hope that future nomination proceedings are better models of civility.
At the swearing-in ceremony for Justice Antonin Scalia in 1986, President Ronald Reagan set the stage for this very moment in our history, he said: “Today we mark one of those moments of passage and renewal that has kept our Republic alive and strong—as Lincoln called it, the last, best hope of man on Earth—for all the years since its founding.”
The recent documentary on Justice Thomas’s life, “Created Equal,” is essential viewing for anyone wishing to understand the depths to which this process can sink. For the sake of Judge Barrett, and her family, let’s hope and pray that doesn’t happen in her case.
The role of a judge was a theme throughout the day yesterday. Judge Barrett stuck to the Ginsburg rule–“no hints, no forecasts, no previews”–when she was repeatedly asked to opine on the specifics of past and upcoming cases. It would be inappropriate for any judge to tip her hand to how she might rule in a future case, and Judge Barrett’s commitment to judicial independence was on full display.
Judge Barrett concluded her opening statement with the words, “I believe in the power of prayer.” She may need to call on a higher power this week for the patience to endure a barrage of questions that are not about her or her qualifications for the Supreme Court, but to attack the President and boost the Democratic Party’s chances at regaining control of the Senate.
Amy Coney Barrett’s reasoning is rooted in the Constitution and the law, but her opinions are written with a tone that recognizes that legal cases are fundamentally about people.
Shouting talking points into a microphone isn’t political discourse. Is anyone listening to anyone else anymore? “Is there anybody out there?”, as Pink Floyd once sang. “Your lips move but I can’t hear what you’re saying.”
Roe’s pronouncement in 1973 of a “fundamental right to abortion” isn’t the “law of the land” today, and it hasn’t been for over forty years.
Amy Coney Barrett is living the life that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought for women to have the right to live.