President Donald Trump has decided to select federal judge Amy Coney Barrett to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, NBC News has learned.
Barrett is a 48-year-old federal appeals court judge from Chicago, who is favored by social conservatives and the religious right. Her confirmation to replace Ginsburg, a feminist icon who sat on the bench for 27 years, would solidify a 6-3 majority for Republican appointees on the bench for the foreseeable future.
Ginsburg, who had in the past publicly sparred with the president, said in a statement issued while she was dying that it was her “most fervent wish” that she not be replaced until after Election Day.
That comment, and the precedent Republicans set in 2016 when they opposed former President Barack Obama’s nominee to the bench, prompted a battle between Democrats and Republicans over whether a vote on a new nominee would take place before Nov. 3.
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Barrett has long been anticipated as a potential nominee to the Supreme Court, and it came as a surprise to some when Trump passed over her in favor of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to fill the seat vacated by Anthony Kennedy. Trump reportedly said at the time that he was saving Barrett for Ginsburg.
Her selection now could help Trump energize his base weeks before Election Day.
At 48, Barrett would be the youngest justice and her tenure could last for decades. She's made her mark in law primarily as an academic at the University of Notre Dame, where she began teaching at age 30. She first donned judges’ robes in 2017 after Trump nominated her to the 7th Circuit.
A devout Catholic, she is hailed by religious conservatives and others on the right as an ideological heir to conservative icon Antonin Scalia, the late Supreme Court justice for whom she clerked.
When Barrett’s name first arose in 2018 as a possible Trump pick, even some conservatives worried her sparse judicial record made it too hard to predict how she might rule. Nearly three years on, her judicial record now includes the authorship of around 100 opinions and several telling dissents in which Barrett displayed her clear and consistent conservative bent.
Before her clerkship with Scalia from 1998 to 1999, Barrett served as law clerk for Laurence Silberman for a year at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Between clerkships and entering academia, she worked from 1999 to 2001 at the Miller, Cassidy, Larroca & Lewin law firm in Washington, D.C.
During her Senate confirmation hearing for the appeals court in 2017, Democrats pressed Barrett on whether her strong religious views would impact her potential rulings on abortion and other hot-button social issues.
Barrett responded that she takes he Catholic faith seriously, but said that “I would stress that my personal church affiliation or my religious belief would not bear in the discharge of my duties as a judge.”
Barrett was raised in New Orleans, the eldest child of a lawyer for Shell Oil Co. She earned her undergraduate degree in English literature in 1994 at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn. She is married to Jesse Barrett, a former federal prosecutor who is a partner at a law firm in South Bend, Indiana. The couple have seven children, included two adopted from Haiti and one child with special needs.
Meanwhile, Barrett’s path to confirmation is bolstered by support among social conservatives, who accuse Democrats of attempting to put a “religious test” in the way of the Supreme Court vacancy.
Barrett has only considered two cases touching on abortion as a federal appeals court judge, in both cases voting to reconsider rulings that struck down abortion restrictions.
In both appeals, Barrett signed onto opinions authored by another judge, rather than independently outlining her thinking, making an assessment of her abortion jurisprudence more complicated.