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Barrett could be most conservative Justice since Clarence Thomas

By Greg Stohr, David Yaffe-Bellany and Lydia Wheeler, Bloomberg News on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON - Amy Coney Barrett brings a resume that could make her the most conservative new justice since Clarence Thomas and a dream addition for Republicans looking to remake the U.S. Supreme Court.

Barrett, nominated Saturday by President Donald Trump, champions the "originalist" approach that has become conservative orthodoxy for interpreting the text of the Constitution. She is an acolyte of the late Justice Antonin Scalia. She has deep Catholic convictions and has said that life begins at conception. Only 48, she could serve for more than 30 years.

And should she win Senate confirmation to succeed the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as expected, Barrett could bring about the biggest legal shift in decades. Her vote would make the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts more likely to overturn Obamacare, disable federal regulatory agencies and expand gun rights. She might even give conservatives their long-pursued goal of toppling the 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion-rights ruling.

"She clearly is the dream candidate for conservatives who are focused on abortion," said Elizabeth Sepper, a law professor at the University of Texas, Austin.

Barrett rates as more conservative than either of Trump's first two nominees, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, according to a predictive scale developed by academics led Lee Epstein, a law professor and political scientist at Washington University, St. Louis. Both justices have been generally reliable votes for Trump and conservative causes, though Gorsuch disappointed many of his backers in June with his majority opinion extending federal anti-discrimination law to protect LGBTQ workers.

Although other Supreme Court justices have disappointed supporters in the past, Barrett brings an especially strong set of credentials, including at least nine appearances since 2014 at events sponsored by the conservative Federalist Society.

 

"She is a rock-solid conservative," said Mike Davis, founder of the Article III Project, which advocates for Trump's judicial selections. "With the appointment of a Justice Barrett as his third Supreme Court pick, President Trump will transform the 5-4 John Roberts court to the 6-3 Clarence Thomas court."

Her academic work suggests she would be more willing to throw out precedents than Scalia, the conservative icon for whom she once clerked, said Ilya Shapiro, director of the Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies at the libertarian Cato Institute.

"You can tell in her writings that she loved the man and she agrees generally with his approach to the law," Shapiro said. "But she's a little more willing than he was, I think, at least if you're a Supreme Court justice, to question precedent."

Scalia was less inclined to toss out past Supreme Court rulings than his colleague Thomas, who was confirmed in 1991. Barrett would probably fall between those two in her adherence to precedent, Shapiro said.

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