One important, under-noticed part of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s opening committee-hearing statement shows an admirable humility and empathy that puts to shame most of the bloviating senators opposing her.
Judge Barrett’s whole statement was a model of decorum. Still, one passage was unusual and unusually good.
“When I write an opinion resolving a case,” she said, “I read every word from the perspective of the losing party. I ask myself how would I view the decision if one of my children was the party I was ruling against: Even though I would not like the result, would I understand that the decision was fairly reasoned and grounded in the law? That is the standard I set for myself in every case, and it is the standard I will follow as long as I am a judge on any court.”
For all of the caterwauling from liberal senators absurdly predicting particular, unwanted political results from the decisions Barrett might join or issue as a Supreme Court justice, none of them has shown much interest in whether the losers from their favored cases feel as if they had a fair hearing. When lower courts ruled against the Little Sisters of the Poor, I don’t remember hearing Sen. Kamala Harris worrying about the impoverished elderly people who would have lost their housing and care if the Sisters had to close their ministry.
When the Supreme Court ruled that the city of New London, Connecticut, could seize the small family home of Susette Kelo so a private developer could use her land, then-Sen. Joe Biden was nowhere to be found in lamenting the injustice for Kelo. Indeed, Biden was on record rejecting claims of small private homeowners.
And so on. Not only have Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee long treated the courts as an extension of power politics, but they have a horrid history, never once matched by Republicans, of smearing the nominees they oppose. Sens. Pat Leahy, Dianne Feinstein, and Dick Durbin, in particular, have records of unseemly hardball not just against the records but in questioning the characters of conservative nominees.
Against these cut-throat politicians, Barrett is a breath of fresh air. Sure, it may be easy for her to say she worries about whether the losers from her cases feel they at least had fair hearings and thoughtful consideration, but the record strongly suggests this is exactly how she acts. Even Barrett’s liberal colleagues from the faculty of Notre Dame Law School, and the clerks who served liberal Supreme Court justices when Barrett clerked for conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, have strongly attested to not just her integrity, but her thoughtfulness, kindness, generosity, and human empathy.
For a judge to make a practice of self-questioning in order to read her own draft opinion through the eyes of the losing party, and to make adjustments if that second look brings up new considerations, is remarkable. Supreme Court justices tend to give an air of supreme self-certainty, and so they rarely show such humility.
Barrett’s point was more than just humble, though. It was a reminder that judges are in office not to pursue broad policy agendas, but to give law-based rulings on individual cases with human plaintiffs and defendants on both sides. The results are, first and foremost, important to those individuals per se, far more than their importance as political markers.
Barrett made a point of saying so, and by almost all accounts has lived up to it during her years on the federal bench. That approach is one more good reason she should be confirmed.
Author: Quin Hillyer
Source: Washington Examiner: Judge Barrett’s humility outclasses her cutthroat critics