WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, questioned Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, on her views on upholding legal precedent. Senator Coons announced that he will vote against Judge Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.
Sen. Coons said, “My core concern here, Your Honor, is that your confirmation may launch a new chapter of conservative judicial activism – unlike anything we’ve seen in decades. The point of the chart was to show we’ve mostly been talking about the Affordable Care Act and privacy-related cases, but if that’s true, it could touch virtually every aspect of modern American life. I pray that I’m wrong. I hope that I am. But, in my reading of your work, nothing has alleviated my grave concerns that rather than building on Justice Ginsburg’s legacy of advancing privacy, equality, and justice, I’m concerned – in fact – that you will take the Court in a very different direction. So with all due respect, I will be voting against your confirmation, Your Honor.”
Audio and video is available here. Additional excerpts are provided below.
On Judge Barrett’s nomination, Sen. Coons said, “President Trump did not nominate you to carry on Justice Ginsburg's legacy. He nominated you because he wants to undermine or change or shift that legacy, and he's been very clear repeatedly before you were chosen about his intent to nominate justices in the mold of Justice Scalia.”
On previous Supreme Court cases, Sen. Coons asked, “If Justice Scalia had had his way, we'd be in a very different country with regards to gender discrimination. In one of Justice Ginsburg's most celebrated decisions in 1996 in the case involving Virginia Military Institute, she struck down their male-only admissions policy. Decades later, VMI honored Justice Ginsburg in recognition of the contributions its female alumni have made. Justice Scalia was the sole dissenter in that case and even accused the Court of destroying VMI which remains standing and strong to this day. I'm just getting at how closely you would ally yourself with Justice Scalia's jurisprudence. Would you agree with Justice Scalia that Justice Ginsburg's decision in VMI was wrong?”
On Judge Barrett's views on judicial restraint, Sen. Coons asked, “In the 2017 article in the University of Minnesota in Constitutional Commentary – that's been referenced before – you said, and I'm quoting, about modern originalists, ‘that they have abandoned the claim one should be an originalist because originalism produces more restrained judges.’ Do you stand by that characterization?”
On court precedents, Sen. Coons said, “[T]he larger challenge here is not what you have said about your views on cases, but what the president who has nominated you has said about his goals and his objectives for your service on the Court. And frankly, my concern about originalism and an activist willingness to reconsider precedent is that in combination, Justice Scalia's views often expressed in sharply worded – memorable, memorable – dissents may make for great academic reading, but I think most Americans don't expect them to become the law of the land. And in a long line of cases, they would overturn well-settled precedent that I think we have all come to expect.”