Judge Barrett On Impartiality: ‘It’s Never Appropriate For A Judge To Impose That Judge’s Personal Convictions’

Judge Amy Coney Barrett Has Repeatedly Demonstrated Her Commitment To Judicial Independence And Impartiality, Saying ‘One Of The Most Important Responsibilities Of A Judge Is To Put Their Personal Preferences And Their Personal Beliefs Aside Because Our Responsibility Is To Adhere To The Rule Of Law’

JUDGE AMY CONEY BARRETT: “But I think that your concern is that because I critiqued the statutory reasoning that I’m hostile to the ACA, and that because I’m hostile to the ACA that I would decide a case a particular way. And I assure that I am not. I am not hostile to the ACA. I’m not hostile to any statute that you passed. And that cases in which I commented, and we can talk at another time, I guess, about the context, the distinctions between academic writing and judicial decision making but those were on entirely different issues. So to assume that because I critiqued the interpretation of the mandate or the phrase ‘established by a state’ means that, on the entirely different legal question of severability, I would reach a particular result just assumes that I am hostile. And that’s not the case. I apply the law, I follow the law, you make the policy.” (U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing, 10/13/2020)


Judge Barrett At Her First Confirmation Hearing: ‘I Would Never Impose My Own Personal Convictions Upon The Law’

JUDGE BARRETT: “I see no conflict between having a sincerely held faith and duties as a judge. In fact, we have many judges, both state and federal, across the country who have sincerely held religious views and still impartially and honestly discharge their obligations as a judge…. I would decide cases according to rule of law … I would never impose my own personal convictions upon the law.” (U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing, 9/06/2017)

  • JUDGE BARRETT: “It’s never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions, whether they derive from faith or anywhere else on the law.” (U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing, 9/06/2017)


Judge Barrett: ‘I Don’t Think That Faith Should Influence The Way A Judge Decides Cases At All,’ ‘One Of The Most Important Responsibilities Of A Judge Is To Put Their Personal Preferences And Their Personal Beliefs Aside Because Our Responsibility Is To Adhere To The Rule Of Law’

Q: “So what role, if any, should faith of a nominee have in the confirmation process?”
JUDGE AMY CONEY BARRETT: “None. I mean we have a long tradition of religious tolerance in this country, and in fact the Religious Test Clause in the Constitution makes it unconstitutional to impose a religious test on anyone who holds public office. So whether someone is Catholic or Jewish or evangelical or Muslim or has no faith at all is irrelevant to the job and in fact it’s unconstitutional to consider it as a qualification for office.” (“A Conversation with Amy Coney Barrett,” Hillsdale College, Washington, DC, 5/21/2019)

  • JUDGE BARRETT: “I think when you step back and you think about the debate about whether someone’s religion has any bearing on their fitness for office, it seems to me that the premise of the question is that people of faith would have a uniquely difficult time separating out their moral commitments from their obligation to apply the law. And I think people of faith should reject that premise. All people, of course, or we hope, most people, right, have deeply held moral convictions, whether or not they come from faith. People who have no faith, people who are not religious, have deeply held moral convictions. And it’s just as important for those people … I just spent time talking about the job of a judge being to set aside moral convictions, personal moral convictions, and personal preferences and follow the law. That’s a challenge for those of faith and for those who have no faith…. But that’s not a challenge just for religious people. That’s a challenge for everyone. And so I think it’s a dangerous road to go down to say that only religious people would not be able to separate out moral convictions from their duty.” (“A Conversation with Amy Coney Barrett,” Hillsdale College, Washington, DC, 5/21/2019)

JUDGE BARRETT: “I don’t think that faith should influence the way a judge decides cases at all. As I said, I don’t think that a judge should twist the law to bring it into line or to help it match in any way the judge’s own convictions. And that’s true, whether they derive from faith or, everyone has convictions, everyone has beliefs. That’s not unique to people who have faith. And so somehow people seem to think that I said the opposite of what I said, but I think that one of the most important responsibilities of a judge is to put their personal preferences and their personal beliefs aside because our responsibility is to adhere to the rule of law.” (The Heritage Foundation’s SCOTUS 101 Podcast, 2/27/2020)


Judge Barrett: ‘No Judge Whom I Know Considers Himself Or Herself An Agent Of The President Who Appointed Him’

JUDGE BARRETT:Our constitutional story contains examples of judges who were able to live up to this ideal by extricating themselves from partisan loyalty. For example, in the notorious case, Korematsu [v. United States], Justices [Robert H.] Jackson and [Frank] Murphy, who were both Roosevelt’s appointees, dissented from the majority’s holding that the Roosevelt Administration’s Japanese internment policy was constitutional. Justices [Sherman] Minton and [Tom C.] Clark, both Truman appointees, joined the majority in Youngstown [Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer] to hold unconstitutional Truman’s seizure of the steel mills during World War II. These examples reflect the independence of the judicial branch. And, indeed, no judge whom I know considers himself or herself an agent of the president who appointed him.” (Judge Barrett, “The Constitution as Our Story,” Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, 10/17/2019)


Judge Barrett: ‘A Judge’s Role Is Properly Above The Political Fray, With A Duty To The Law Before Personal Or Political Loyalties’

JUDGE BARRETT: “And, in this very large and very diverse country of ours, it is certainly true that no judge and none of us is going to like the democratic choices that are made by his fellow Americans all of the time. All of us will sometimes be in dissent. But, not liking choices made by our fellow Americans does not make them unconstitutional. And, if the Constitution never leads a judge to a result that she doesn’t like, she is not an honest interpreter. For example, a judge’s view about the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act should not turn on whether he or she thinks the Act is good or bad policy. The constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act – the judgment the judge makes about that – should turn on whether the Constitution permits or forbids it. A judge’s role is properly above the political fray, with a duty to the law before personal or political loyalties. In light of the temptations that judges face, it is essential that judges possess both courage and self-control. Courage, so that they can hold democratic majorities to the fundamental commitments of the Constitution, even when doing so is unpopular. Self-control, so that they can resist the temptation to impose their personal preferences on democratic majorities. And, I should add, wisdom to know the difference. As the great judge Learned Hand observed, in our country, we have always been extremely jealous of mixing the different processes of government, especially that of making law with that of saying what it is after it has been made. Learned Hand was right. This separation protects the judicial and democratic branches of government from each other, ensuring that each adheres to its prescribed role. Key to the success of this system is the independence of judges themselves and their placement of the law before their personal and political priorities. That is the standard to which judges should hold themselves.” (Judge Barrett, “The Constitution as Our Story,” Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, 10/17/2019)

  • JUDGE BARRETT: “To my mind, the greatest risk for a judge is not loyalty to a president or to a political party but to the judge’s own preferences. That is what judges must fiercely guard against. As Justice Scalia used to say, ‘Something is wrong with a judge if his constitutional decisions always coincide with his policy views.No-one who is being honest with himself – and I say this not just as a judge [but] to everyone in the room – none of us is honest with ourselves if we think that we can look in the Constitution and have mirrored back a document that perfectly reflects our own preferences.” (Judge Barrett, “The Constitution as Our Story,” Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, 10/17/2019)

JUDGE BARRETT: “Under Chief Justice John Marshall, the [Supreme] Court steered away from partisanship, and that was essential to solidifying the Court’s legitimacy as an institution. John Marshall made a choice that I think captures the ideal to which judges aspire. From the moment of his investiture, he chose to wear a simple black robe. Before Chief Justice Marshall, the custom was for the justices to wear colorful robes. Some mimicked the scarlet…robes worn by British judges, others wore academic gowns of the universities at which they had been educated. On the day that he took the oath as Chief Justice, John Marshall broke with tradition and wore a simple black robe. His biographer, Jean Edward Smith, says he did so as a mark of humility that he thought should characterize the judicial role. The other justices soon followed suit, as have all federal judges in the intervening centuries. The uniformity of judicial dress is emblematic of the fact that judges speak for the rule of law, not for the will of the individual.(Judge Barrett, “The Constitution as Our Story,” Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, 10/17/2019)



Related Issues: Supreme Court, Judicial Nominations