Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett said Monday that judges are not deciding cases to impose a “policy result” but are making their best effort to determine what the law and the Constitution require.
Speaking at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Barrett appeared to acknowledge that expected court decisions on reproductive rights and gun control would be seen through a political lens and lead to more division in a nation splintered by partisanship and racked by incivility. She urged Americans to “read the opinion” and consider the court’s reasoning before making judgments about the outcome.
“Does [the decision] read like something that was purely results-driven and designed to impose the policy preferences of the majority, or does this read like it actually is an honest effort and persuasive effort, even if one you ultimately don’t agree with, to determine what the Constitution and precedent requires?” she asked.
Americans should judge the high court — or any federal court — by its reasoning, she said. “Is its reasoning that of a political or legislative body, or is its reasoning judicial?” she said.
The program was briefly interrupted by a heckler. Barrett said afterward: “As a mother of seven, I am used to distractions and sometimes even outbursts,” which elicited a round of applause from the capacity crowd.
In a wide-ranging, 45-minute interview at the hilltop library, Barrett also spoke dubiously of introducing cameras to the high court, defended free speech rights and admitted she is a lousy basketball shot.
While she said she was not expressing an opinion on cameras in the courtroom, she added that “people don’t behave the same when they know that there’s a camera there.”
Barrett’s appearance at the library came on the same day that Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah said they would vote to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court, bolstering bipartisan support for the first Black woman to be nominated.
Barrett was asked what advice she would have for a new justice.
“I think one of the difficult things that I experienced that I wasn’t really fully prepared for was the shift into being a public figure,” she said. “Also, security is much different now. … We all have security details, and that’s different.”
Barrett was nominated by then-President Trump to fill the vacancy after the death of liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was confirmed without Democratic support in late October 2020 — just days before the presidential election — in a deeply divided Senate, 52-48. Her approval by the Senate’s Republican majority cemented conservative control of the court.