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Barrett's nomination spotlights Notre Dame

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WASHINGTON — If Judge Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed to the Supreme Court, she will be the first Notre Dame Law School graduate to sit on the bench of the nation's highest court and the only sitting justice with a law degree not from Harvard or Yale.

Notre Dame Law School, in South Bend, Ind., is not just Barrett's past but very much still a part of her life now as she serves as a faculty member there and on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.

She began working at the law school in 2002 as a law professor focused on federal courts, constitutional law and statutory interpretation. She has been named distinguished professor of the year by three of the law school's graduating classes.

Marcus Cole, the law school's dean, described Barrett as an "absolutely brilliant legal scholar and jurist. She is also one of the most popular teachers we have ever had here at Notre Dame Law School."

And on a personal note, Cole said Barrett "is one of the most thoughtful, open-minded, considerate and kind people I have ever met. She lives a life of humility and grace, devoted to her family and community. Judge Barrett has served our nation with true distinction from the bench and would continue to do so if she were confirmed to serve on our nation's highest court."

After graduating from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn., Barrett went to Notre Dame's law school on a full-tuition scholarship. She was editor of the school's law review and graduated summa cum laude in 1997.

The law school also is where she met her husband, Jesse Barrett, a fellow student. Jesse is a current partner at an Indiana law firm, and the couple's eldest of seven children is a freshman at the University of Notre Dame.

Many of Barrett's fellow professors, recent students and former teachers have praised her in recent op-eds, stressing her qualifications for the role as Supreme Court justice to fill the seat left vacant by the Sept. 18 death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

And during her confirmation hearings with the Senate Judiciary Committee on her nomination to the 7th Circuit in Chicago, every full-time member of Notre Dame Law School's faculty signed a letter supporting her nomination.

"Amy is a role model for all of us, and will be a model of the fair, impartial and sympathetic judge," the letter said.

Holy Cross Father John Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, praised Barrett as a Supreme Court nominee in a Sept. 26 statement: "The same impressive intellect, character and temperament that made Judge Barrett a successful nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals will serve her and the nation equally well as a justice of the United States Supreme Court."

"An alumna and a faculty member of Notre Dame Law School, Judge Barrett has epitomized the university's commitment to teaching, scholarship, justice and service to society," the priest said. "She is a person of the utmost integrity who, as a jurist, acts first and foremost in accord with the law.

"I join her colleagues in the law school and across the campus in congratulating her on the nomination and wish her and her family well through what has become, sadly, a personally bruising confirmation process."

Father Jenkins and Cole, Notre Dame's Law School dean, attended the Sept. 26 White House ceremony where President Donald Trump announced Barrett as his Supreme Court nominee.

Barrett, for her part, said she was "humbled by the prospect of serving in the Supreme Court," and said if she were confirmed, she would always be mindful she’s following in Ginsburg's footsteps.

As a justice, she would be in a group of nine, a number she said she is very used to with her husband and their seven children, two of whom were adopted from Haiti. She also stressed that if confirmed she would "assume the role to serve you," the American public, and she has no illusions that the road ahead will be easy.

Barrett now faces the Senate process, which includes public hearings, a committee vote and the Senate floor vote where a simple majority, or 50 votes, is needed to confirm her as the next Supreme Court justice. The Republicans have 53 seats in the current Senate, and if needed, Vice President Mike Pence could break a tie vote.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has said he hopes to hold a final confirmation vote by the end of October, just days before the election.

If Barrett is confirmed, she would be the sixth Catholic justice, joining Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Neil Gorsuch was raised Catholic but is now Episcopalian. Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan are Jewish.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020