President Donald Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett to be the next Supreme Court Justice on Sept. 26, eight days after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
On the lawn of the Rose Garden, Trump officially nominated Barrett.
“Today, it is my honor to nominate one of our nation’s most brilliant and gifted legal minds to the Supreme Court. She is a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials, and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution: Judge Amy Coney Barrett,” Trump said.
Following her nomination, national media coverage and remaining sentiments about the recent passing of Justice Ginsburg spurred conversation in the Cal Poly community about how the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett could impact the lives of students, faculty and staff.
While assistant professor of political science R.G. Cravens said he was not comfortable expressing his own political opinions on the nomination of Barrett, he spoke largely to the social implications she could have if appointed to the Supreme Court and the relevant opinions of both political parties.
“There are a lot of contingent opinions on either side that deal with the social issues at play,” Cravens said. “But also the process and how the process has been used in a very political fashion.”
Barrett clerked under Justice Antonin Scalia, who is commonly seen as the paradigm of conservative, originalist political theory.
Assistant professor of political science Nancy Arrington wrote in an email to Mustang News about the significance of Barrett’s political affiliation and how the Court may be affected by such ideologies.
“She is a conservative judge nominated by a president aligned with the conservative party, so we expect her to decide on politically salient cases in ways that are consistent with a conservative ideology,” Arrington wrote. “If confirmed, we will have to see how her ideology plays out.”
Environmental management and protection sophomore and member of professional law fraternity Phi Alpha Delta, Evan Gabbard expressed opposition to her nomination.
Gabbard said that by allowing the nomination of Judge Barrett, the Republican party, who previously disallowed the nomination of a Supreme Court Justice by former President Obama, was committing hypocrisy.
“Any progressive actions that Ruth Bader Ginsburg put forward could be completely undone by this person,” Gabbard said.
However, other Cal Poly students, like industrial engineering sophomore Ben Haering, a member of the pro-life club Students For Life, fully support the nomination of Judge Barrett and hope to see her appointment before the November election. Her originalist theory of interpreting the constitution, along with her conservative ideologies, align with his own.
With the appointment of Judge Barrett, the Supreme Court would have a majority of Republican-appointed Justices. Arrington wrote the fact that Barrett would replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a more liberal judge, would have significant implications on the balance of the court.
“Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Alito, and Roberts all lean right as well, so the addition of Barrett would give the conservative leaning judges a majority, which could — depending on how the justices decide to weight precedent in their decision making — result in overturning cases that the conservative justices see as wrongly decided,” Arrington wrote.
Controversies around Barrett’s nomination have been largely concentrated on landmark cases that her influence could possibly overturn, affecting reproductive rights, access to health insurance, LGBTQ+ rights and the second amendment.
“President Trump … has been pretty public about what he wants to see in a Supreme Court Justice nominee. He wants to see someone who is going to overturn Roe v. Wade,” journalism professor Michael Park said.
Many students expressed concerns that Barrett would overturn Roe v. Wade, the case that prohibits government interference with abortion decisions in the first trimester and limits interference in the second trimester.
“She thinks life begins at conception which there’s no scientific evidence for. It’s completely religiously based, so overturning Roe v. Wade, which would be a huge deal for millions of women across the country, would completely be based off of her religion,” Chloe Comstock, political science junior and Vice President of the Cal Poly Democrats club said.
However, some students, like Haering, would support a reversal on the Roe v. Wade precedent.
“She is seemingly a pro-life person, but the question is will she apply that to her ruling or is she going to leave that just as her personal views,” Haering said. “I personally hope that she would help to overturn [Roe v. Wade] — We are students for life.”
Cravens said that the originalist view of the constitution is very narrow, and because of that, it does not leave a place for the rights of LGTBQ+ people.
“There are a lot of reasons why, from a policy perspective and a political perspective, that the LGBTQ+ community would oppose the nomination,” Cravens said.
Comstock predicts Barrett’s appointment would be problematic for gay marriage, specifically the case Obergefell v. Hodges which guarantees the right to marriage for same-sex couples.
“Because of her religion, she doesn’t think that gay people should be given the same rights as the rest of us,” Comstock said.
Cravens said that a lot of people are concerned that Barrett would vote to strike down the Affordable Care Act in its entirety which would lead to a lot of worry and fear during a pandemic.
“The fact that we have people in power like Amy Coney Barrett who can overturn this Affordable Care Act who also then turn around and benefit directly from subsidized government health care… is horrible,” Gabbard said.
The fact that right now, the Senate is majority Republican works in Barrett’s favor, according to Cravens.
“There is very little institutionally that can be done to prevent her nomination from moving forward,” he said.
Despite this, Cravens said that no one can predict what Barrett will do on the Supreme Court, nor how she will apply constitutional theory to her rulings. Additionally, the Court has to maintain some legitimacy and consider the ramifications of its decisions.
“If the Court is seen as being overtly partisan … then we are less likely to support their decisions. That’s a problem for the Court because the Court has no enforcement mechanisms,” he said.
Cravens said that judges are institutionalists and jurists sworn to protect the constitution and maintain the law.
“I don’t know if it would be appropriate to say that we’re just going to see the Court hurl wildly to the conservative side because I think you have to give judges some credit,” Cravens said.
Park said that we have to consider to what degree Barrett will let her religion affect her decision making. We like to think that Justices can separate religion and the practice of law, but judges are also human and are influenced by social and cultural factors, like religion, he said.
“You definitely see religion influences political attitudes and opinions, it informs them. We learn about the world based on our religious upbringing,” Cravens said.
Park added that religion in politics can be and often is weaponized.
“Religion and Christianity as it is presented by right-wingers is used as more of a device to control people than it is for what people actually believe in,” Gabbard said.
However, for others, like Haering who is Catholic, Barrett’s religious background is favorable.
“I would hope in a Supreme Court case they would lean more towards the facts of the case specifically, but I think for abortion because I do think it’s immoral that the conscience would be a heavy factor,” Haering said.
Associate professor of the political science department Shelley Hurt said students should think of Barrett’s nomination as a political economy issue, in addition to an issue of civil rights and identity politics. In this century, we’ve seen the growth of monopolization and hyper-capitalization, she said.
“The issue having to do with her nomination is that she is in a political camp that doesn’t think the market should be regulated or overseen democratically,” Hurt said.
Barrett’s appointment would be a victory for advocates of the laissez-faire, capitalist position, according to Hurt.
Cal Poly students are entering into one of the most fragile economic recessions right now which will affect their lifetime earning potential.
Barrett’s nomination could have economic implications for overtime pay, maternity leave, social security and minimum wage, according to Hurt.
Barrett’s nomination would have an effect on the regulation of big corporations. Regulation affects health issues like whether there is lead in paint and runoff in drinking water, Hurt said.
Cravens said the federal court deals with issues that directly affect Cal Poly students, like civil rights, Title IX and funding for public education.
“If you are a student at a public institution then the Court could eventually have a final say on any number of policies that would change your education. It’s very important to be aware and to follow these events,” Cravens said.