For political reasons alone, a woman makes sense as Trump’s pick—especially if he is trying to woo the votes of Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Susan Collins, R-Maine. Both voted to confirm Barrett to the 7th Circuit only nine months ago.
For Trump, the left’s anger toward Barrett that emerged during her circuit court confirmation hearing last year is likely a point in her favor. During that hearing Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., threw suspicion onto Barrett’s Catholicism.
“When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you,” Feinstein said to Barrett. “And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.”
The speech Feinstein was referring to was a 2006 graduation speech for Notre Dame Law School, where Barrett was a longtime professor. Barrett had made this comment that startled Feinstein: “No matter how exciting any career is, what is it really worth if you don’t make it part of a bigger life project to know, love, and serve the God who made you?”
Liberal opponents have used another feature of Barrett’s faith as a weapon: her association with the People of Praise, an independent ecumenical community. The New York Times first reported on her ties to the group, and has characterized it as cultish. The group appears to be more of a traditional Christian community group. Barrett did not list any affiliation with a church on her questionnaire for her confirmation to be a circuit court judge.
Rob Driscoll, a student of Barrett’s at Notre Dame more than a decade ago, recalled a charitable auction the school held every year. Barrett donated a dinner at her home, and Driscoll and a group of other students decided to pool their money to bid on it. They won, and Barrett cooked them dinner themed on her New Orleans roots, including a mock turtle soup. Driscoll said the time was “immensely enjoyable”—the students enjoying their host’s soup and her “brilliant mind.” Driscoll was one of hundreds of former students of Barrett’s who signed a letter supporting her during her circuit court confirmation.
Barrett has only a brief judicial record because she has only been a federal judge since late last year. She has not taken a definitive position about overturning Roe v. Wade.
In one academic article, Barrett wrote with now-president of Catholic University of America John Garvey about Catholic judges handling death penalty cases. The Catholic Church opposes the death penalty and she and Garvey concluded that in some specific instances, Catholic judges should recuse themselves from those cases for moral reasons. However, at her confirmation hearing, Barrett said her faith would not force her to recuse herself from any cases.
She clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, as well as D.C. Circuit Judge Laurence Silberman, before working at elite law firms in Washington. She was part of the University of Notre Dame Law School faculty from 2002 until her appointment to the 7th Circuit last year. She and her husband Jesse have seven children. They adopted two of their children from Haiti and another has special needs.
Brett Kavanaugh, 53, of the D.C. Circuit (since 2006)