By Michael Hernandez
SIMI VALLEY—“I’m a passionate defender of the 1st Amendment. The reason we have the 1st Amendment is for our democracy,” said Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett Monday (April 4) at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library as she contrasted the need to protect free speech from “popular speech (which) does not need protection. We need “civil discourse (so) people can express their views (but) not threatening or hostile to another side.”
The former Notre Dame law professor—who did not attend Harvard or Yale—said that there “is not a handbook for new justices to the Supreme Court” but “all the justices were so welcoming” especially Justice Sonia Maria Sotomayor who shared her law clerk manual used in the chambers with Justice Barrett.
The Simi Valley event began with a disturbance from the audience and the mother of seven children said she was “use to distractions and sometimes even outbursts.” Barrett described her Supreme Court experience “is like parenting. You learn how to parent by watching your parents and noticing what you like and don’t like. They model what they are going to do.” She stated that she had learned from the modeling of other justices.
“We use traditional tools that inform us about prior precedent, statues and the Constitution.”
Justice Barrett said she was writing a book on the Supreme Court. She also stated that she enjoyed living as Amy in South Bend, Indiana and being able to go to the gym “and just do crossfit” and not be concerned about being posted on social media. In Washington D.C. a lot of the weekends are committed “to soccer, lacrosse, and birthday parties.”
Justice Barrett says she is grateful for her husband, Jesse, a lawyer who works from home and does all the cooking. She stated it “is harder to make new friends” or meet people who do not know her as Justice Barrett in D.C. “This is a barrier to relationships and making new friendships.”
The Barretts’ actively practice their Catholic faith and two of their seven children were adopted from Haiti. Their youngest biological child has Down Syndrome. Barrett was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Donald J. Trump to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and she was confirmed on Oct. 26, 2020 in a 52-48 vote, 30 days after her nomination and eight days before the presidential elections. She is the first justice to be confirmed since 1870 without a single Senate vote from the minority party.
“It is important that justice write opinions in measured tones. They relate to one another. The court is collegial even if you disagree about the results of a case and the reasoning of the case. The collegiality that members of the Supreme Court show for on another show that level of respect even for those we disagree.”
Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett concluded her remarks at the Reagan Presidential Library by commenting about how future generations of attorneys “can contribute to law, the country and legal process through civility. They have an opportunity to disagree and debate without devolving into being ugly. They have a role to elevate the civility of debate and collegiality. People can debate and not disintegrate relationships.”
(Editor’s Note: Michael Hernandez, co-founder of the Citizens Journal—Ventura County’s online news service is a former Southern California daily newspaper journalist and religion and news editor. He worked 25 years as a middle school teacher in Monrovia and Los Angeles Unified School Districts. He also has family members living in Kiev, Ukraine. Mr. Hernandez can be contacted by email at [email protected].)