by Matthew Volfson
October 26, 2020
Editor’s Note: The recent nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court generated interest from the BUA student body. Here, Matthew Volfson presents his opinion of the proceedings, and two other students share their thoughts.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump are not justified in pushing to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Trump nominated Barrett on September 26, just about a month from Election Day on November 3, when voting in the presidential election most officially begins. Early voting and mail-in ballots are already prevalent in many states. Trying to appoint a justice during an election year further increases partisanship. In perhaps an ironic twist, the Republican party has instigated a fight split between party lines for a position on the highest court in America, the emblem of justice and impartiality. The seat on the Supreme Court is not elected but can still have the final say on some of the most important issues today, such as healthcare and the right to abortion.
In 2016, McConnell refused to consider then-President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland. McConnell’s frantic push to confirm Barrett is an example of blatant hypocrisy down in Washington. Whether the Senate and presidency are held by the same party should not matter when deciding the capability of a person to serve in one of the most important institutions in the land. The history of the Supreme Court is one of nearly consistent automatic confirmations of Supreme Court justices. Only in recent times has the confirmation process become more contested.
The 1973 Roe v. Wade decision changed the role of the Supreme Court in the landscape of American politics. Roe v. Wade was, in brief, a case in which the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the right of a person to abort a fetus.1 The Court’s landmark decision may be in danger of being overturned if Barrett’s confirmation goes through and thus shifts the power balance to six justices nominated by a Republican president and three nominated by a Democratic one. Republicans and Democrats both want only their own agenda to be passed within a supposedly unbiased body. They are establishing partisanship, and the Supreme Court ought not to be compromised by partisan politics, especially because these justices are appointed and not elected by the American people. The justices should vote how they deem best, and no one ought to jeopardize their actions through partisan haggling like what we are seeing today with Amy Coney Barrett. McConnell and Trump are acting the exact opposite from the way we expect our leaders to act. They wish to undermine the fairness of the Court through pushing an appointee at the worst possible time, a few weeks before election day.
Attempts by any party to push through a justice close to Election Day encourage both parties to advertise their own agenda during the televised confirmation hearings rather than look objectively at the judicial record and aptitude of the nominee. Senator McConnell and President Trump are hyping up fierce competition with this confirmation when what our country needs most is an unified message. McConnell and Trump lead the Republican Party by appointing a judge so close to an election. They divide the country when we want division the least. Americans are suffering and dragging themselves through a pandemic, the worst since the Spanish flu in 1919.
Students want answers from their school, state, and national leaders on how to get through these times. It seems that uniting as a country would serve us best. Or perhaps students do believe partisanship is the right answer. Maybe we do need to turn the Supreme Court into an electoral contest because of the Court’s power to disrupt legislation created in Congress. In the following interview, two students have given their opinions on the issue of Barrett’s nomination.
Would you mind giving an introductory statement? What’s your political ideology? Can you give us a brief summary of your knowledge of Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States?
Alia Jaeger ‘24 (AL):
I am pretty liberal; I don’t exactly know my ideology at the moment. I don’t exactly know much about it. I have done mostly research on what [Barrett] has believed in and what she has done in the past.
Anne Jackson ‘22 (AN):
I mostly lean moderate, but I’m liberal on a few issues such as healthcare.
From what source have you heard about the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett?
I think I read it in the New York Times. I don’t know the source exactly. I am pretty sure I read it on AP News. I don’t remember the other sources — I remember reading it on other news sites, but I don’t exactly remember which ones.
I mostly heard about this from the New York Times.
What are your thoughts on the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett? Are you in favor of how the Republican leadership in the Senate handled the situation?
I don’t think she should be confirmed. I don’t think it should happen, especially now. It’s a bit too soon in my opinion.
From my understanding, Amy Coney Barrett is a conservative justice who Republicans are trying to get confirmed as the ninth member of the Supreme Court. I think that the Republican Senators should take their own advice from 2016 and not confirm a justice until after the inauguration. I think that their way of handling it is further proof that they are self-serving hypocrites.
How familiar are you with Amy Coney Barrett? How do her views compare with yours?
She has different views than I do. She hasn’t said a lot about her views recently. She isn’t exactly telling how her opinions are. She is pro-life; she always says she isn’t in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade, but she doesn’t support abortion. She never directly said she is against gay marriage, but she lectured at places that are [hostile to] gay marriage.
She has been very secretive on what [her] views actually are, so I don’t know what she thinks about a lot of major issues, and therefore I can’t give an accurate comparison of our ideologies.
How do you think a more conservative Supreme Court will affect our everyday life at BUA? How will our political action be altered with more conservative leaders? Will their rulings on healthcare, gun control, or abortion alter the landscape of Boston, the views of parents at our school, and our school? If so, how and why?
I guess, starting with gun control. Republicans are not in favor of gun control. School shootings have happened in America, which is sad. With no laws on gun control, people might feel less safe at school. I don’t know if it will directly affect our school. I can’t think of anything else that will affect our school per se. I don’t think it will affect the landscape of our school very much. I don’t think having more conservative leaders will affect our students’ politics. Having more conservative leaders won’t really affect my political views. It could affect the views of other students.
I think that one of the biggest ways a conservative Supreme Court could affect BUA is if the election results are contested and eventually wind up being heard by the Supreme Court. Considering that a lot of people in Boston work in the healthcare industry, I think that a court decision on the Affordable Care Act would definitely affect Boston more than other cities. In terms of gun control, Massachuesetts has far fewer guns than other states, and we also have stricter state gun control laws. While a conservative reading of gun control could increase the amount of gun owners in Massachusetts, I think it will affect us a lot less than more conservative states such as Florida or Texas, which are known for their high amount of gun owners.
Do you think that it is hypocritical that the Republican Senate under the leadership of Mitch McConnell accepted the confirmation hearing for Amy Coney Barrett but not for Merrick Garland?
Yeah, I do think it’s hypocritical. [McConnell] accepted the nomination made by a Republican but not a nomination made by a Democrat.
It is highly hypocritical. It really makes you stop and think about whether they are acting in the interests of the states they represent or for their own political gain.
What are your final thoughts on the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court of the United States, and how does it connect back to you and your political opinion?
Well, I don’t agree with her being nominated. She is a Catholic judge. I think there should be religious diversity on the Court. My political opinion is much different from hers.
I think that the arguments you make in 2016 should also apply to 2020. If you are against confirming a Democratic president’s appointee before an election, you should also be against a Republican appointee before an election. No confirmation before inauguration applies to everybody. Morals don’t change just when it’s convenient.
1 Cornell Law School, Legal Information Institute, Jane ROE, et al., Appellants, v. Henry WAD,