The Left is outraged that President Donald Trump has been able to nominate a Supreme Court justice to take the seat of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Democrats do not want the Senate to confirm Trump’s nominee, Amy Coney Barrett. Many on the Left have strained to attack ACB for her faith but many acknowledge her as an impressive jurist and a caring mother of 7 children, one with Down Syndrome and two adopted from Haiti. Yet at least one high-profile left-leaning law professor has lavished praise on ACB’s intellect and her character.
Noah Feldman, a law professor at Harvard and former clerk to Supreme Court Justice David Souter, wrote that he was “devastated” by Ginsburg’s death and “revolted” by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s supposed hypocrisy, but he sang Barrett’s praises.
“Regardless of what you or I may think of the circumstances of this nomination, Barrett is highly qualified to serve on the Supreme Court,” Feldman wrote in his Bloomberg column.
“I disagree with much of her judicial philosophy and expect to disagree with many, maybe even most of her future votes and opinions,” he wrote of ACB. “Yet despite this disagreement, I know her to be a brilliant and conscientious lawyer who will analyze and decide cases in good faith, applying the jurisprudential principles to which she is committed. Those are the basic criteria for being a good justice. Barrett meets and exceeds them.”
Feldman met ACB when they clerked at the Supreme Court together during the 1998-99 term. “Of the thirty-some clerks that year, all of whom had graduated at the top of their law school classes and done prestigious appellate clerkships before coming to work at the court, Barrett stood out. Measured subjectively and unscientifically by pure legal acumen, she was one of the two strongest lawyers. The other was Jenny Martinez, now dean of the Stanford Law School.”
“When assigned to work on an extremely complex, difficult case, especially one involving a hard-to-comprehend statutory scheme, I would first go to Barrett to explain it to me. Then I would go to Martinez to tell me what I should think about it,” the professor recalled.
“In a world where merit counts, Barrett and Martinez would both be recognized as worthy of serving on the Supreme Court. If a Democratic president with the support of a Democratic Senate asked me to recommend a current law professor for the bench, Martinez would be on my short list,” Feldman added. “But a Republican is president, and the Senate is Republican. Elections have consequences, and so do justices’ decisions about when or whether to retire.”
Feldman also praised ACB as “a sincere, lovely person. I never heard her utter a word that wasn’t thoughtful and kind — including in the heat of real disagreement about important subjects. She will be an ideal colleague.”
The professor also noted that Barrett is “a profoundly conservative thinker and a deeply committed Catholic. What of it? Constitutional interpretation draws on the full resources of the human mind. These beliefs should not be treated as disqualifying.”
“We have a Supreme Court nominee who is a brilliant lawyer, a genuine and good person — and someone who holds views about how to interpret the law that I think are wrong and, in certain respects, misguided. I hope the senators at her hearing treat her with respect,” Feldman wrote.
Despite his firm opposition to Barrett’s positions, the professor concluded, “I’m going to be confident that Barrett is going to be a good justice, maybe even a great one — even if I disagree with her all the way.”
Feldman’s vocal praise for Barrett bolsters the case for her confirmation, and it seems all the more remarkable because he disagrees with her judicial philosophy.
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Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.