WASHINGTON — A University of Virginia law professor defended Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the highest court in the U.S. during Thursday’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing.
Saikrishna Prakash, a conservative who clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas, said that Barrett’s success as a law professor at Notre Dame would help her interpret the Constitution if she were confirmed as a justice.
“As you saw during her testimony here she’s very good at breaking down complex topics,” he said during his opening statement. No senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee asked him any questions.
Prakash has written more than 75 law review articles on issues ranging from executive powers to arguments that support originalists’ interpretations. An originalist view means to interpret the law as it was written in that time period, he said, noting that conservatives could expect to be disappointed “because she will render results that they disagree with politically,” which he called “entirely appropriate.”
He added: “Progressives should be happy because she will give the meaning to the laws that is appropriate at the time that you passed it. And I don’t think she is going to use her position to advance her personal or religious agenda.”
He was among nearly a dozen public witnesses on the last day of Barrett’s confirmation hearings. President Donald Trump nominated her to the high court after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Sept. 18 of complications of pancreatic cancer.
Barrett is a 48-year-old judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals who formerly clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia. She’s considered a perfect fit for the job among conservatives.
During her hearings with lawmakers she refused to answer questions about how she would rule in cases dealing with health care, abortion rights and same-sex marriage, but Democrats pointed to past rulings and a newspaper report on how Barrett signed on to a newspaper ad that declared the Roe v. Wade decision on abortion rights “barbaric.”
If confirmed, she would shift the Supreme Court significantly to the right for generations, adding a sixth conservative justice to three liberal ones.
“I think she’s an institutionalist and I think that’s reflected in her writing. She cares deeply about America. She does not want to burn the whole thing down,” Prakash said.
Prakash said Barrett’s originalist views would be useful when interpreting the Constitution because she would interpret the law as written, something that lawmakers want. He added that lawmakers spend a lot of time crafting text and thinking about the context of a piece of legislation.
“What (lawmakers) don’t want is some judge or some executive later on, twisting that statute, twisting that enactment to suit some other purposes,” he said.