Arkansas AG: Two Decisions Where Barrett’s Jurisprudence Shone

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Judge Amy Coney Barrett is President Donald Trump's third nominee to the Supreme Court. (Photo credit: OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

Judge Amy Coney Barrett is President Donald Trump’s third nominee to the Supreme Court. (Photo credit: OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

Opponents of Judge Amy Coney Barrett are hiding behind politics to obscure the merits of her candidacy.

Instead of talking about her jurisprudence, they would rather talk about anything else, whether it is her Catholic faith or the size of her family. But anyone who thoughtfully analyzes her opinions, from her time on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, knows she is an excellent judge who will be an amazing Supreme Court justice.  

Academic experts praise her writing, with Jonathan Adler, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University, arguing “her conservatism is embedded in her methodological and jurisprudential commitments, not any commitment to a particular policy outcome. As a scholar and a judge, she has shown herself to be a very careful and deliberate thinker who is concerned with getting the right answer, whether or not it’s the popular answer.” 

Judge Barrett believes in the Constitution, and her legal writing is both persuasive and clear, an uncommon combination. She is unafraid to stand up to Democrats or Republicans if she sees their legal claims are lacking. I couldn’t be more excited by her nomination, and I hope the Senate and the American people see through partisan attacks against Judge Barrett and come to appreciate her brilliant legal wit. 

In 2019, Judge Barrett wrote the decision in Doe v. Purdue University, which showcases her legal ability. Her decision reverses the dismissal of a lawsuit against Purdue University by a male student, John Doe, who was suspended by Purdue for allegedly committing sexual violence against a female student. Doe argues the school railroaded him, and in the process, violated his 14th Amendment due process rights and his Title IX rights.  

Judge Barrett agrees, writing, Doe’s “circumstances entitled him to relatively formal procedures: he was suspended by a university rather than a high school, for sexual violence rather than academic failure, and for an academic year rather than a few days. Yet Purdue’s process fell short of what even a high school must provide to a student facing a days-long suspension.”   

Throughout her decision, Judge Barrett holds the university to account for not giving Doe a fair hearing. She argues the process was a sham because two of the three members of the Advisory Committee never even read the investigatory report, and the investigators seemed to believe Doe’s accuser over him, even though she never testified. 

K.C. Johnson, a CUNY Graduate Center history professor who studies these cases, claims Barrett’s decision was the “single most consequential ruling in this area.” Johnson argues Barrett’s decision sets a clear and simple standard that has since been adopted by other courts.  

While Judge Barrett often crafts the majority opinion, she is unafraid to dissent from her colleagues when they are wrong. In Kanter v. Barr, Rickey Kanter was banned from owning a gun under federal and state law because he was convicted of mail fraud. The majority ruled the ban was legal, and the government had met its burden by proving felon dispossession laws are related to a substantial government interest. 

Judge Barrett’s dissent is a tour de force of legal analysis, as she picks apart the arguments in favor of a blanket gun ban for felony convictions. She begins, “history is consistent with common sense: it demonstrates that legislatures have the power to prohibit dangerous people from possessing guns. But that power extends only to people who are dangerous.” 

She surveys a range of documents and laws from the 18th and 19th centuries, clearly and persuasively showing legislatures from the Founding were interested in preventing those who were a danger to public safety from owning guns, not necessarily felons. Felons were not assumed to have permanently lost their individual rights after paying their debt to society.  

Unlike the majority, Judge Barrett makes a clear distinction between Second Amendment rights and voting rights. “The Second Amendment confers an individual right, intimately connected with the natural right of self-defense, and not limited to civic participation.” 

In essence, the Second Amendment is a fundamental right protecting self-defense. Therefore, bans on gun ownerships are held to a higher standard than bans on communal activities like voting. In this case, the government doesn’t meet that standard, as they can’t show Kanter threatens public safety.   

Both cases show Judge Barrett’s abundant legal skills. She is unafraid to challenge powerful institutions or the government if her thorough legal and historical analysis shows their arguments are faulty. Unsurprisingly, her political opponents want to ignore her legal record because they know it is unimpeachable. 

Leslie Rutledge is the Arkansas Republican attorney general and former chairwoman of the Republican Attorneys General Association.

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