Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who was nominated on Sunday to the US Supreme Court, is a favourite of conservatives for her religious views but critics warn her confirmation would shift the nation’s top court firmly to the right. They also fear a 6-to-3 conservative majority will embolden the court to strike down what’s left of the progressive laws.
As a federal appeals court judge since 2017, she has taken positions backing gun rights and against migrants, women seeking abortions and former president Barack Obama’s signature healthcare reform that Republicans have been trying to dismantle for years. However, she is known as a ‘brilliant’ academic and is often celebrated for her finely honed legal arguments.
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At just 48, her lifetime appointment to the bench would ensure a conservative presence on the panel for decades, but her background — the antithesis of the justice she would replace, Ruth Bader Ginsburg — is a new flashpoint in an already polarized country.
Here are her notable legal opinions on some key issues which might offer some insight on what the nomination means for the court and the country:
As a judge, Barrett has not yet ruled directly on abortion. However, she has cast votes opposing the rulings that had struck-down abortion-related restrictions. One of the major concerns of the rights groups that oppose her nomination is the possibility of her overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalised abortion nationwide.
As a federal judge in 2017, Barrett has openly supported gun rights in a 2019 legal opinion.
Barrett wrote that the Second Amendment did not bar people convicted of felonies from owning a gun. She declared a Wisconsin law, that barred anyone convicted of a felony from owning a weapon even if they aren’t convicted of a violent crime, to be unconstitutional.
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“History is consistent with common sense: it demonstrates that legislatures have the power to prohibit dangerous people from possessing guns,” Barrett wrote. “But that power extends only to people who are dangerous.”
In a 2019 ruling, Barrett gave a much controversial remark on a sexual assault case involving a male student at Purdue University in Indiana who was accused of sexually assaulting a female student.
“The case against him boiled down to a ‘he said/she said’ -Purdue had to decide whether to believe” the woman accuser or the male accused, Barrett wrote, adding that it is plausible that Purdue officials chose to believe the accuser “because she is a woman” and to disbelieve the accused “because he is a man.”
The ruling also said that even a temporary policy of bias that favours one sex over the other in a dispute, in order to avoid bad publicity falls under sex discrimination.
In June, when a three-judge bench voted to halt a policy in Illinois which denied legal permanent residency to certain immigrants, Barrett gave a dissenting opinion. She is also known to refuse to review lawsuits filed by immigrants applying for humanitarian protections and other immigration benefits who claimed they had been wrongfully denied.