Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett is facing senators’ questions for the first time during confirmation hearings. Sen. Lindsey Graham asked Barrett Tuesday morning what she would say in response to those who see her as “a female Scalia.” (Oct. 13)
A group of 550 Rhodes College alumni have signed a statement affirming fellow alumna and U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, whose confirmation hearing began Monday. The letter comes after 1,800 other alumni signed a letter opposing Barrett’s nomination.
Among the 550 supporters is Antonin Scalia, Rhodes College graduate of 2018 and grandson of the late Justice Antonin Scalia (the name skipped a generation, the grandson explained). Barrett, who clerked for the justice in the 1990s, has called the older Scalia a mentor, whose lessons “still resonate.”
“His judicial philosophy is mine too: A judge must apply the law as written,” Barrett said during her nomination ceremony in September, which has since been called a COVID-19 “superspreader” event. “Judges are not policymakers, and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold.”
During her hearing, she reiterated that she, too, is an originalist.
“But I want to be careful to say that if I’m confirmed, you would not be getting Justice Scalia,” she said. “You would be getting Justice Barrett.”
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‘A brilliant legal mind’
The younger Scalia immediately called fellow alum Barrett a “stellar choice” to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with whom his grandfather famously had a friendship that both bridged and encouraged their differing viewpoints. His father, U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia, wrote for the Washington Post about the friendship shortly after Ginsburg’s death.
Scalia’s relationship with his grandfather focused on the grandson’s football games and school work and about the grandfather’s Catholic faith, rather than his work on the court. Like the late justice, the Rhodes College alumnus holds Barrett in high esteem. He has been critical of Democratic senators during the hearing, calling their remarks “silly, histrionic, bitter.”
“Many people on both sides of the proverbial aisle have spoken out about her (Barrett’s) imminent fitness to be on the court. Again, like I said, she’s a brilliant legal mind. And men and women on both sides of the aisle acknowledge that…,” Scalia said Tuesday.
He encouraged all Rhodes alumni to sign the letter, which so far encompasses 550 signatures, with the earliest graduates of 1955 to the most recent future graduates of 2022.
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The statement begins: “We, the undersigned, are Rhodes College alumni who hold diverse opinions on social issues, religion, and politics. However, we are united in our agreement that U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett is a well-respected, distinguished member of the Rhodes College class of 1994, who amassed an impressive record of academic achievements and leadership at Rhodes.”
The group is “proud of the honor” Barrett’s nomination brings to Rhodes.
Though Scalia is not certain who wrote the statement (the site lists no authors), he is pleased to have signed it and said he has shared it on Twitter and Facebook, as well as with fellow alumni.
In addition to the statement, the site features dozens of comments about Barrett from alumni. A selection is shared below:
Fellow 1994 graduate Nancy Turner said: “I am so proud of my ‘94 classmate Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court and fully support her confirmation. She was a model student and leader at Rhodes and I congratulate her on all of her accomplishments…”
Brooke Treadwell Ward, a former roommate, said: “…I knew back then there was something special and amazing about her though she would never have acknowledged it. I remember Amy being so very humble, compassionate and sincere. I feel fortunate to have known her during college. She will make an amazing Supreme Court Justice…”
Kappa Delta sorority sister, Erika Ragan Cobb, said: “…It’s funny how you look back 30 yrs to your college days & what you remember about certain people. What I remember most about Amy is her amazing character, how she loved & treated everyone with kindness, her honesty, & her love for God that was exemplified in her day to day life. I know Amy will strive for that which is honorable, beautiful and highest! We are so proud of you!”
Other alumni show opposition to Barrett
Earlier this month, another group that has since grown to represent 1,879 Rhodes alumni sent a letter to Marjorie Hass, requesting that she reaffirm the college’s commitment to its “LGBTQ, female, minority, and other marginalized students and graduates who fear that their rights may be endangered by” Barrett’s appointment.
The group also recently sent the letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee urging them to reject Barrett’s nomination.
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That letter, co-authored by alumni Rob Marus and Katherine Morgan Breslin, wrote of opposition both to Barrett’s nomination and to the college’s “embrace” of Barrett: “we believe both her 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.”
By slotting some of Barrett’s rulings into categories based on the college’s values of truth, loyalty and service, the letter described how the alumni felt the Supreme Court nominee’s career runs counter to the perceived values Barrett would have learned at Rhodes.
“I was sorry to see so many of my classmates, so many of my peers at Rhodes and fellow alumni, sign that letter urging the Senate not to take action and the college to distance itself from Judge Barrett again…And then, as a Rhodes College alum, she (Barrett) really does embody all of the very best of the school,” Scalia said, “and we ought to be proud that she is being considered for this position on the court.”
Marjorie Hass, president of Rhodes College, speaks outside the Judge D’Army Bailey Courthouse at 140 Adams for a public memorial to honor the legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Monday, September 21st, 2020. (Photo: Justin Ford / For CommercialAppeal.com)
In response, Hass wrote to the alumni who signed the letter that the college is “committed to inclusion, belonging, and respect for all persons.” She affirmed that Rhodes would continue such practices, including signing amicus briefs when appropriate.
The president also stood by her initial praise of Barrett’s academic achievement while at Rhodes. Barrett graduated magna cum laude from Rhodes in 1994 with a degree in English. She was a member of Phi Beta Kappa honor’s society, Hass has said, and was elected to the Honor Council and the Student Hall of Fame.
Laura Testino covers education and children’s issues for the Commercial Appeal. Reach her at [email protected] or 901-512-3763. Find her on Twitter: @LDTestino
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