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Trump Names Devout Catholic As His Supreme Court Nominee


Now Senate Republicans do have the majority votes to move forward with Judge Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation process and to confirm her on the Senate floor before Election Day if there are no unforeseen complications or developments. So what does her judicial record tell us about the kind of U.S. Supreme Court justice she would be? We're going to hear from someone who supports Barrett's nomination. Her name is Helen Alvare. She's a law professor at Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University. Thank you so much for being with us this morning.

HELEN ALVARE: Thank you.

MARTIN: From what you know of Judge Barrett, how would you describe her judicial philosophy?

ALVARE: Well, she is very openly an originalist, a textualist. She wants to look at what the text itself, whether the Constitution or a piece of legislation, actually says and to honor the people who democratically passed it and what they meant to do at the time they did it, their original public meaning, as a way of sort of honoring the democratic process in its results.

MARTIN: In a recent piece for Politico, you wrote that Amy Coney Barrett will "inspire several generations" - I'm quoting here - "of female lawyers and academics for many of the same reasons Ruth Bader Ginsburg did." How do you imagine that happening considering their very divergent views, especially on women's reproductive rights?

ALVARE: Yes. You know, in my conversations with female students over the last decades, really, one of the things that inspires them is someone who is able to have a stable, even inspiring, personal life, like Justice Ginsburg did, like Justice Barrett - or Judge Barrett has. And the ability to be an intellectual, to be a highly accomplished intellectual and to still have a rewarding personal life. A lot of young female lawyers ask themselves, how am I going to manage that in a very intense and intellectually demanding profession?

MARTIN: When you say a rewarding personal life, you mean the fact that she has seven children.

ALVARE: Well, I mean also that she seems to have a wonderful working relationship with her husband about how you manage that life. I mean she seems to have a great deal of friends. I mean she seems to be able to extend herself in relationships, not only to have children that she and her husband had but also to reach out to children who are suffering and bring them into the family. So it's not just having seven children; it's having excellent relationships and a generosity of spirit in her life.

MARTIN: Where they disagreed - you point out how Justice Ginsburg and Judge Barrett may be similar in some aspects of their personal life and their ambition. Judicially, they were very different, not to mention just Roe v. Wade. But wondering also your thoughts about same-sex marriage - I mean, do you expect that if it comes before the court, Judge Barrett would support overturning Roe v. Wade or the guaranteed right to marry same-sex couples?

ALVARE: You know, because there is nothing in her past rating on this - she has, in a couple of opinions at the 7th Circuit, indicated that she would have - you know, she'd send forward to the court for adjudication whether you had to do respectful burial of fetal remains. In the end, Justice Breyer, Justice Kagan ended up agreeing with Justice Barrett on that kind of very sort of narrow provision about respect for human body parts and bodies. She also indicated that the state might have an interest in abortions that were had for reasons of discrimination on the grounds of disability or sex or race. So, really, that's all we've got at this point.

MARTIN: What about same-sex marriage?

ALVARE: Same-sex marriage is built on the same due process rationalization as abortion, but we don't have her speaking about due process in any way that we can say we know. So I can't give you an answer on that, and she's never written on it.

MARTIN: If she is confirmed, what kind of influence do you think her appointment will have on the court in the long term?

ALVARE: Yeah, I remember when Justice Kagan came to the rededication of my law school and was saying at that time, we're all textualists now because Justice Scalia has sent us back to the text, and it's really sort of the default position of the court. I think Amy Coney Barrett would strengthen that position even further, and she has quite well-developed philosophy of it. So I think she will be a person who goes even further toward the direction of textualism than the court maybe is now. She'll be more like a Scalia in that.

I also think she'll be one of the really clear writers that we end up loving. I mean, one of the things, for instance, that Justice Kagan is so renowned for is the excellence of her writing. I think if you look at the stuff that Amy Coney Barrett has written, you will say, ah, she's a writer of that character.

MARTIN: Helen Alvare, a law professor at Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University. Thank you so much for your time.

ALVARE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.