Justices must be “hyper vigilant to make sure they’re not letting personal biases creep into their decisions, since judges are people, too,” Barrett stressed at a lecture hosted by the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center.
Introduced by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, founder of the center and key player in pushing through her confirmation in the last days of the Trump administration, Barrett spoke at length about her desire for others to see the Supreme Court as nonpartisan.
Barrett insisted the media’s reporting of opinions fails to capture the deliberative process in reaching those decisions. And she argued that “judicial philosophies are not the same as political parties.”
“To say the court’s reasoning is flawed is different from saying the court is acting in a partisan manner,” said Barrett, whose confirmation to the seat left open by the death of the liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg cemented conservative control of the court. “I think we need to evaluate what the court is doing on its own terms.”
Barrett's comments followed a high-profile decision earlier this month in which the court voted 5-4, rejecting to step in to stop a Texas law banning most abortions from going into effect, prompting outrage from abortion rights groups as well as President Biden.
Barrett was asked about that decision by students who submitted questions in advance and also scrutinized about another recent decision by the court in which it refused to block a lower court ruling ordering the Biden administration to reinstate a Trump-era program informally known as Remain in Mexico. Barrett said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on specific cases.
Several supporters of abortion rights demonstrated outside the Seelbach Hotel, where the private event was held.
Barrett described the court as a “warm, collegial place.” She said that after she was confirmed a colleague brought Halloween candy for her children. The first mother of school-age children on the nine-member court also spoke about balancing her job and family life.
“I have an important job, but I certainly am no more important than anyone else in the grocery store checkout line,” Barrett said, describing how her relationship with her children — who are not “particularly impressed” with her high-profile post — helps her stay grounded in her “regular life" where she is busy “running carpools, throwing birthday parties, being ordered around."
When asked what advice she would give to young women who would like to pursue a career in public service, the justice expressed she would like young women to know it is possible to raise a family and be successful. Barrett was confirmed by the Senate in a 52-48 vote last year, just over one month after Ginsburg's death.