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Kirk Earl of Belfast is a first-year student at Notre Dame Law School.
I am very proud to be one of the few Mainers studying at Notre Dame Law School. I have been taught by incredible professors and learned more about what it means to become a Notre Dame lawyer: A person who uses the law to fight for the marginalized in our community and make the world a more just place.
Many of my classmates and professors are excited about President Donald Trump nominating Amy Coney Barrett, who graduated first in her class from Notre Dame Law School before becoming a professor here, to the Supreme Court. I also look forward to having a graduate from my school join the Supreme Court some day, but Amy Coney Barrett is not the right person and now is not the right time.
Nominating a Supreme Court justice this close to the election flies in the face of public opinion and the precedent claimed by Republicans in 2016. In February of that year, Republicans in the Senate said that Barack Obama could not appoint a justice to the Supreme Court because of the upcoming general election. Somehow, the rule has changed in 2020, and Republicans now believe that we must confirm a new justice even though many Mainers will begin voting before the confirmation hearings even begin. A hurried confirmation battle will only serve to further politicize the Supreme Court and damage its reputation as a fair, nonpartisan institution.
The timing is not the only thing wrong with Barrett’s nomination. If Barrett is appointed to the Supreme Court, our access to healthcare could be drastically reduced. As Nan Aron, president of Alliance for Justice, told The New York Times, “Amy Coney Barrett meets Donald Trump’s two main litmus tests: She has made clear she would invalidate the ACA and take health care away from millions of people and undermine a woman’s reproductive freedom.”
Barrett has been openly skeptical of Chief Justice Roberts’s vote to uphold the Affordable Care Act, writing that he “pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute.” With a new challenge to the ACA expected to be heard at the end of this year, Barrett could easily be the deciding vote to invalidate it, potentially taking health insurance from thousands of Mainers.
Barrett has also made her opposition to reproductive rights clear by signing a letter criticizing the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that all insurance plans cover contraceptives. While Barrett said that she would keep her personal views of abortion, which she says is “always immoral,” out of the courtroom, she has voted to restrict access to the procedure in both of the cases she has heard at the federal court.
Perhaps equally worrying is the influence Barrett may have on this November’s elections. President Trump has refused to guarantee a peaceful transfer of power, and his allies in Washington are eager to keep him in office by any means necessary. Any Supreme Court nominee selected by Trump before the election could prevent mail-in ballots from being counted or otherwise undermine the results of the election.
Barrett’s record on voting rights is particularly worrisome due to a case where she determined that the right to vote only applies to “virtuous citizens.” Trump believes that his nominees will support him over the country’s interests, and we cannot afford to see whether this is true.
I do not support personal attacks, and I refuse to make any against Barrett. Barrett is well known at Notre Dame as a kind person and an accomplished professor. She has inspired countless Notre Dame graduates to become better lawyers, and I have yet to meet a single person here who dislikes her. However, while I greatly admire her academic achievements at my school, Mainers cannot afford to have Barrett confirmed to the Supreme Court this year.