Justice Barrett Urges Americans to ‘Read the Opinion’ With Court Decisions

Justice Barrett Urges Americans to 'Read the Opinion' With Court Decisions Amy Coney Barrett stands during a group photo Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett stands during a group photo of the Justices at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on April 23, 2021. (Erin Schaff/Getty Images)

By Charlie McCarthy | Tuesday, 05 April 2022 08:50 AM

Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett urged Americans to "read the opinion" when controversial court rulings are handed down and not assume politics determined the decisions.

Speaking Monday at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, Barrett said judges were trying to determine what the law and the Constitution required and not deciding cases to impose a "policy result."

"Does [the decision] read like something that was purely results driven and designed to impose the policy preferences of the majority, or does this read like it actually is an honest effort and persuasive effort, even if one you ultimately don't agree with, to determine what the Constitution and precedent requires?" Barrett asked.

"Is its reasoning that of a political or legislative body, or is its reasoning judicial?"

Barrett added that it was "perfectly fair game" to dislike a court's decision, but if you say "that the court got it wrong, you have to engage with the court's reasoning first."

While Barrett was discussing how media members tracked her in 2018, when she was considered a finalist to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, a heckler interrupted the judge.

"As a mother of seven, I am used to distractions and sometimes even outbursts," said Barrett, whose response earned applause from the capacity crowd.

Barrett, who was nominated and confirmed to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2020, was asked whether she had advice for a new justice. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is expected to be confirmed by the full Senate by the end of the week.

"I think one of the difficult things that I experienced, I wasn't really fully prepared for, was the shift in being a public figure and also security is much different now than when I was clerking on the court," she said. "Justice [Antonin] Scalia did not have security. We all have security details."

On the current bench, Barrett is the only justice who did not attend Harvard or Yale. She attended Notre Dame Law School.

"I think diversity in every respect is good, including in background of education," she said.

Asked whether Supreme Court justices should be lawyers – something that's not a Constitutional requirement – she said, "it's very difficult for me to imagine someone being able to serve successfully on the Supreme Court without being a lawyer and having some familiarity with the law."

Barrett did not offer an opinion after being asked whether cameras should be allowed in Supreme Court proceedings. She said such a decision would be made between her and her peers.

"I think when people imagine cameras in the court room, they imagine a fly on the wall," she said, referring to a camera nobody would notice. "One thing to think about, people don't behave the same when they know that there's a camera there than they do if there's not.

"In many ways the [current] audio really gives that window [into the court proceedings]."

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