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Fair Courts E-Lert: Senate GOP Fastracks Nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to Replace RBG

This E-Lert highlights the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett, renewed calls for SCOTUS reform as a result of her appointment, and more.

Last Updated: October 2, 2020
Published: July 15, 2021

Senate GOP Fastracks Nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to Replace RBG

On September 26, President Trump announced Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee to replace Ruth Bader Ginsberg on the U.S. Supreme Court. Barrett has served as a judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals since November 2017. Previously, she was a law professor at Notre Dame and a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. 

Barrett is known for her conservative views, including her opposition to abortion, and statements about the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Previously, she wrote a law review article saying that the ACA “should be renamed ‘SCOTUScare’ in honor of the Court’s willingness to ‘rewrite’ the statute in order to keep it afloat.” 

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is pushing Barrett’s nomination through before the election. He plans for a nomination hearing the week of October 12 and a confirmation vote by the full Senate on October 29, less than a week before the election. If McConnell succeeds, this would be the shortest time from vacancy to confirmation in more than 40 years. These efforts are in spite of the Senate GOP’s rejection of Merrick Garland’s election-year appointment in 2016 and current public opinion that the winner of November’s election should fill the vacancy.

Democrats Renew Calls for SCOTUS Reform In Response to Barrett’s Nomination

Congressional Democrats have renewed calls for structural Supreme Court reform in response to the fast-tracking of Judge Barrett’s nomination. 

On September 25, Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), and Don Beyer (D-VA) introduced a bill that would establish 18-year term limits for future justices. Under the bill, the term limits would not apply to current justices. Each president would nominate two justices during their term in office, and the Senate would be required to act on the president’s nomination within 120 days or the nominee would be seated on the Court. 

If Judge Barrett is confirmed, some Democrats, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), and progressive House candidate Mondaire Jones, have suggested expanding the size of the Court. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer has said that “[e]verything is on the table.” 

For his part, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has largely avoided saying whether he supports adding seats to the Court since Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing.

Conservative Groups Announce Plans to Pour Millions into Barrett’s SCOTUS Confirmation

Several conservative advocacy groups have announced their plans to spend millions of dollars to support Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. 

The Judicial Crisis Network, which spent approximately $4 million on TV ads supporting Brett Kavanaugh, has said it intends to spend at least $10 million in support of Barrett, including a $2.2 million campaign targeting Republican senators in swing states. Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group, intends to spend upwards of a million dollars supporting Barrett’s confirmation. Other conservative groups, including America First Policies, Americans for Prosperity, Club for Growth, CatholicVote.org, and Heritage Action have also announced multi-million dollar ad buys supporting Barrett, bringing the total spending in favor of her confirmation to between $25-26 million.

Progressive advocacy group Demand Justice plans to spend $10 million opposing Barrett’s confirmation. Fix Our Senate has also announced a six-figure ad buy and published its first ad on September 18.

Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Sues Leader of Tort Reform Group for Defamation

Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Jefferson Hughes III filed a defamation lawsuit against the executive director of a conservative group who wrote an open letter criticizing him as an example of “the troubling lack of transparency in the way Louisiana’s judiciary handles allegations of misconduct.” 

Hughes’ lawsuit was filed against Lana Venable, the executive director of Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch (LLAW), a non-profit advocating for tort reform. Last September, Venable published an open letter in The Advocate about allegations that Hughes had been romantically involved with one of the attorneys in a child support case he presided over in the 1990s, saying that “[w]hile Hughes was under investigation for years by the FBI, the public remained unaware. Investigations… [went] through his election to the Supreme Court — twice.” She also claimed that taxpayers spent nearly $100,000 on Hughes’ legal expenses.

Hughes’ lawsuit claims that Venable’s open letter caused him “embarrassment and damage to his reputation.” This is the second defamation lawsuit Hughes has filed against The Advocate this year. In July, he sued the newspaper over an article making similar allegations about Hughes’ conduct.