Amy Coney Barrett and the Supreme Court
As the Senate Judiciary Committee finishes its hearings questioning President Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee Amy Coney Barrett, both sides of the political fence are angry about what is going on. Democrats are angry that a Supreme Court Nominee is being pushed so close to the election, and Republicans are angry with the way Judge Barrett has been questioned during the hearings. Regardless of your political leanings, if you watch these hearings, you might get a sense as to how Judge Barrett would vote on certain issues that are important to you. Issues that are important to me are those that affect injured plaintiffs.
Before Judges take the bench, they take an Oath to administer justice equally to all persons according to the Constitution. Even with an Oath, it is almost impossible for Judges on both sides to separate their political opinion from their courtroom opinion. Many important decisions, especially in personal injury cases, are made with the judge’s discretion. This discretion allows for a good amount of wiggle room for a particular judge to explain why they ruled a certain way.
Supreme Court Judges often disagree with each other on cases. Conservative judges will disagree with conservative judges, and liberal judges will disagree with liberal judges. It is undisputed that Judge Barrett is conservative, so with that we can assume a defense oriented stance on certain issues. One way to forecast the future rulings of Supreme Court Nominee Barrett is to look at her past rulings.
Judge Barrett has written nearly 100 opinions on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals over the past three years. In these three years, she issued opinions on immigration, guns, abortion, voting rights, and many more. Some of Judge Barrett’s opinions indicate she favors the defense. In Smith v. Illinois Department of Transportation, No. 18-2948 (7th. Cir. 2019), a black man sued the Illinois Department of Transportation after he was fired and called a racial slur by a supervisor. I won’t say what the word was, except that in my opinion it is the most heinous word in the English language. Judge Barrett found that a mere utterance of the word did not “alter the conditions of his employment and create a hostile working environment” and sided with the Defense by upholding Smith’s dismissal. Just as an example of how conservative Justices can disagree, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh found an utterance of the same word did, in fact, create a hostile work environment in a different case prior to joining the Supreme Court.
Additionally, while on the 7th Circuit, Judge Barrett was friendly to Corporate entities. In Betzner v. Boeing co., 910 F. 3d 1010 (7th Cir. 2018), Judge Barrett sided with Boeing Co., allowing the case to be removed to federal court, where they were more likely to get a favorable result. A similar issue was heard just last week on our Supreme Court where Ford is seeking to limit the ability of courts across the country from having jurisdiction over product manufacturers similar to them. Essentially, if the Supreme Court rules in Ford’s favor, injured parties are going to have a harder time bringing lawsuits against manufacturers of defective products. Although Judge Barrett is not on the High Court yet, it is interesting to think how she could sway the Court in this potentially landmark decision.