It was predictable that alums at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn., the mutual alma mater of Judge Amy Coney Barrett and your humble blogger, would mobilize against Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination.
Barrett graduated magna cum laude from Rhodes in 1994, with a major in English literature and a minor in French. She was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She then went to Notre Dame Law School on a full scholarship. She was editor of the law review and graduated first in her class.
Signed by more than 1,500 alumni, the letter demands that Rhodes President Marjorie Hess “disavow” the Supreme Court nomination of Rhodes’ currently most famous grad. The authors were Rob Marus, associate vice president for communications at the Association of American Universities, and Katherine Morgan Breslin, a lawyer.
Marus and Breslin state that “both [Barrett’s] record and the process that has produced her nomination are diametrically opposed to the values of truth, loyalty, and service that we learned at Rhodes.”
Hey, it’s great to write a letter, and you should by all means express your reservations about Judge Barrett, but let’s be a little more candid, gang.
In knocking Barrett’s fitness (not only to the Supreme Court but to the college), the signatories point to Rhodes’ seal: Truth, Loyalty and Service.
And, yet, I would say she upholds those tenets better than her accusers.
Here is a snippet from the statement:
During her 2017 Senate confirmation hearings for her current seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, Judge Barrett dutifully sidestepped direct questions about how she would rule on a challenge to the right to abortion that the Supreme Court protected in its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. She deferred to the jurisprudential concept of stare decisis — a Latin term for “let the decision stand.”
It is important to note that, for six years while she taught at the Notre Dame Law School, Judge Barrett belonged to the Notre Dame chapter of the anti-choice group University Faculty for Life. And, as anyone who has paid any attention to Supreme Court nominations for the last three decades knows, the Federalist Society would only vet and approve a nominee who they believe is willing to overturn or seriously curtail Roe v. Wade.
During her 2017 confirmation hearings, Judge Barrett also obfuscated about her association with an anti-LGBTQ organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center — an Alabama-based nonprofit that studies hate groups more intensely than any organization in the United States (with the possible exception of the FBI) — has labeled a hate group.
In fact, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF, formerly known as the Alliance Defense Fund) has openly advocated for laws in foreign countries that would criminalize homosexuality and even defended European laws that forced the sterilization of transgender people. In the United States, ADF has also repeatedly advocated in U.S. and state courts and legislatures against the rights of LGBTQ people and has falsely and repeatedly linked LGBTQ people to pedophilia.
Unfortunately, in the hands of the authors of this letter, truth is less important than ideological conformity. The signatories have every right to say that they want the Court to set social policy and, therefore, oppose any nominee who may not share their political viewpoints. Why didn’t they just truthfully state that position and cut the sanctimony?
Even if it were appropriate to ask a Supreme Court nominee how she would rule on a specific case, it isn’t possible to that answer, as it would be difficult to predict what particular legal principles might arise in a particular case.
Some of signatories claim that they are sorority sisters of Barrett. So much for their sense of Loyalty. As for Service, who could have led a life of greater service than Judge Barrett and her husband, who are raising seven kids, including two adopted from Haiti, and who have served in civic and religious organizations?
The signers of the letter are caught up in the heady power of bullying and character assassination of an honorable woman. It does seem that the alums might have expressed their opinions without asking Barrett’s college to disown her.
I hope that President Hess will continue to stand firm on the pillar of Truth and refuse to bend to pressure and “cancel” Judge Barrett. Hess made her admiration for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg clear, but so far she is not attempting to excommunicate one of Rhodes’ most distinguished grads.
Rhodes’ only previous nominee to the Supreme Court was Abe Fortas, an LBJ appointment, who was confirmed and served on the high court from October 4, 1965 until May 14, 1969. Fortas stepped down and returned to private practice after it was revealed that Fortas had taken a secret retainer from a Wall Street financier for legal advice.
Supreme Court appointees generally come from Yale and Harvard, not small Southern schools like Rhodes. I wonder if I detect in the Rhodes alum letter signers a certain status anxiety. It is always good to put daylight between yourself and somebody who doesn’t meet the with the approval of the northeastern elite.
I was so proud of Rhodes when I learned that Judge Amy Coney Barrett had been nominated to the highest court. I have a strong feeling that I am not alone.