Congratulations to Amy Coney Barrett on becoming the 115th Supreme Court justice and the 5th woman in history appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court! A mother of seven, including one with Down syndrome and two adopted children from Haiti, Barrett is also the first mom with school-aged children to sit on the Supreme Court.
Sandra Day O’Connor was the first female Supreme Court justice (1981), followed by Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1993), Sonia Sotomayor (2009), Elena Kagan (2010), and now Amy Coney Barrett (October 26, 2020). The highest court in the land rightfully should be a reflection on the diverse makeup of the country as a whole, and it is – male and female, Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative, black/white/Hispanic. (Now we just need an Asian-American justice!)
Barret’s swearing-in ceremony took place on the South Lawn at the White House, shortly after the Senate voted 52-48 to confirm her. After being sworn in by Justice Clarence Thomas, with her husband Jesse holding the Bible on which she took the oath of office, Barrett “threw down the gauntlet” in her acceptance speech. She spoke about the difference between politicians and justices, the former of which she described as having “policy preferences,” saying it was the job of a justice to resist those preferences.
And that’s the way it should be! After all, the Supreme Court is the court of last resort for those looking for justice and it plays a very important role in our constitutional system of government, protecting civil rights and liberties by striking down laws that violate the U.S. Constitution.
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Thank you all for being here tonight. And thank you President Trump for selecting me to serve as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. It’s a privilege to be asked to serve my country in this office, and I stand here tonight truly honored and humbled.
Thanks also to the Senate for giving its consent to my appointment. I am grateful for the confidence you have expressed in me and I pledge to you and to the American people that I will discharge my duties to the very best of my ability.
This was a rigorous confirmation process and I thank all of you, especially leader [Mitch] McConnell and Chairman [Lindsey] Graham for helping me to navigate it.
My heartfelt thanks go to the members of the White House staff and Department of Justice who worked tirelessly to support me through this process. Your stamina is remarkable and I have been the beneficiary of it.
Jesse and I are also so grateful to the many people have supported — who have supported our family over these last several weeks. Through ways both tangible and intangible, you have made this day possible. Jesse and I have been truly awestruck by your generosity.
I have spent a good amount of time over the last month at the Senate, both in meetings with individual senators and in days of hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The confirmation process has made ever clearer to me one of the fundamental differences between the federal judiciary and the United States Senate. And perhaps the most acute is the role of policy preferences. It is the job of a senator to pursue her policy preferences. In fact, it would be a dereliction of duty for her to put policy goals aside.
By contrast, it is the job of a judge to resist her policy preferences. It would be a dereliction of duty for her to give in to them. Federal judges don’t stand for election. Thus, they have no basis for claiming that their preferences reflect those of the people.
This separation of duty from political preference is what makes the judiciary distinct among the three branches of government. A judge declares independence not only from Congress and the President but also from the private beliefs that might otherwise move her. The judicial oath captures the essence of the judicial duty the rule of law must always control.
My fellow Americans, even though we judges don’t face elections, we still work for you. It is your Constitution that establishes the rule of law and the judicial independence that is so central to it. The oath that I have solemnly taken tonight means at its core that I will do my job without any fear or favor; and that I will do so independently of both the political branches and of my own preferences.
I love the Constitution and the democratic Republic that it establishes.
And I will devote myself to preserving it.
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Watch the C-SPAN video of Amy Coney Barrett giving her acceptance speech: