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Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett welcomes scrutiny and says she developed ‘thick skin’

LAKE GENEVA, Wis. — Justice Amy Coney Barrett said Monday that public scrutiny from the Supreme Court is nothing new and should be welcomed, and that she has developed a “thick skin” over criticism of her role in as one of the most recent judges.

“In everything, there can be good and bad,” Barrett told a conference of judges and lawyers. “The fact that the court is in the news, insofar as it involves people in the work of the court, paying attention to the court and knowing what the courts are doing and what the Constitution has to say, is positive development.”

The downside, she says, arises if there is a misperception of the tribunal’s work or if there is a sense that it has “let people down”.

“Judges and all judges are public figures, and public criticism is part of the job,” she said, pointing out that just a few years ago she was a professor of law at the University of Notre Dame, away from the public eye. “But I’ve been working on it for a few years now and I’ve gotten a thick skin, and I think that’s what public figures need to do; I think that’s what all judges should do.

Barrett, 51, was President Donald Trump’s third nominee for the High Court, confirmed in the fall of 2020. His nomination solidified a six-justice conservative majority that quickly moved the court to the right, underscored by the last year’s decision to overturn the abortion rights guarantee that the court established 50 years earlier in Roe v. Wade.

Barrett was addressing the Seventh Circuit Judicial Conference. She was gently interviewed by Diane S. Sykes, Chief Justice of the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago and a former colleague. Sykes was also on Trump’s list of Supreme Court nominees.

Sykes did not ask about recent court rulings or ethical controversies that have troubled the justices.

The criticisms focus primarily on expensive trips made years ago by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr., underwritten by wealthy corporate executives and not disclosed in required annual financial reports. Both judges said they did not believe it was necessary to disclose the trip. But Senate Democrats have backed legislation to impose on the court disclosure rules as strict as those that apply to members of the House and Senate.

The question of whether Congress has the power to impose a specific code of ethics on the Supreme Court divides Democrats and Republicans, constitutionalists and the judges themselves. Some have been more open than others.

Alito was adamant earlier this summer in an interview with a lawyer and Wall Street Journal columnist about the role of Congress. “I know it’s a controversial point of view, but I’m ready to say it,” Alito said. “Nothing in the Constitution gives them the power to regulate the Supreme Court, period.”

When asked if other judges agreed, Alito replied, “I don’t know if any of my colleagues have spoken about it publicly, so I don’t think I should say it. But I think it’s something we’ve all thought about.

Judge Elena Kagan wasn’t so adamant when questioned at a conference for the 9th Circuit in Portland, Oregon. “It simply cannot be that the court is the only institution that is somehow not subject to checks and balances from anyone. “, she said, adding, “I mean, we are not imperial. »

But she added that it would be better for the court to deal with the ethics issue on its own.

Barrett was not asked for her opinion, but she resisted the idea that the court had become “acrimonious”.

She said a longtime family friend visiting her apartments recently asked her, “Do you hate yourself?

“In fact, I get asked that question a lot,” she continued. She said there are warm relations within the court, despite the high-profile divisiveness and disagreements.

“Someone once described to me the relationship between judges in court as a marriage in which there is no possibility of divorce,” she said. Judges don’t choose each other, but they have to learn to live with each other, she said.

When she was chosen after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the court’s term had already begun. Her new co-workers extended “kindness after kindness” to help her, Barrett said.

Judge Neil M. Gorsuch sent his staff to assist him until his own clerks were on board. And she said Judge Sonia Sotomayor sent Barrett’s husband, Jesse, back to South Bend, Indiana, with chosen Halloween candy for each of his children.


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