Amy Coney Barrett has been named to United States Supreme Court. I don’t want to write something here that has already been said a million other places about the hypocritical way in which the GOP again shattered norms, forcing her nomination through days before an election where they appear likely to lose both the White House and the Senate, in the face of uniform opposition from the Democratic Senators (though it is worth noting again that Barrett’s confirmation is the first in modern times in which a nominated Justice did not receive a single vote from the opposition party).
Instead, I’m going to use this space to offer a critique of her qualifications, something even liberals have seemed hesitant to talk about. Most of the criticism of her nomination has come in the way of criticizing the way it happened rather than this largely unremarkable person would be nominated in the first place.
Barrett’s experience is this: she practiced law for two years (never actually trying a case) taught for 15 years at a good, but not elite law school, and then a very short stint on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals (this means she has never participated in a trial as a lawyer or a judge). There are approximately 1.3 million lawyers in the United States. Exactly nine of them can sit on the Supreme Court. That resume should not get you there.
Whether trial experience should be a prerequisite to becoming a judge is something that there is great disagreement about even within the legal community. My feeling is this: Supreme Court Justices judge the work of appellate judges. To do so, they should have some experience as appellate court judges. Appellate Court judges judge the work of trial court judges. To do so, they should have some experience as trial court judges. Trial court judges judge the work of trial lawyers. To do so, they should have some experience as trial lawyers. Period.
There are fine lawyers who never try a case. Perhaps they create trusts or work in mergers and acquisitions or…teach law school. Those are all important jobs, but they are not jobs that prepare one to be a judge, of any kind.
Amy Coney Barrett, again, has never participated in a trial as a lawyer of a judge. How on earth is she among the 9 out of 1.3 million lawyers we deem qualified to hold the most important role in our entire judicial system?
Footnote: Lest you think that this is a purely partisan attack, these criticisms would apply equally to numerous federal judges nominated by both Republicans and Democrats.
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