Casey Mattox: Senator Doug Jones is wrong to oppose Amy Coney Barrett

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FILE - In this May 19, 2018, file photo, Amy Coney Barrett, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit judge, speaks during the University of Notre Dame's Law School commencement ceremony at the university, in South Bend, Ind. Barrett, a front-runner to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has established herself as a reliable conservative on hot-button legal issues from abortion to gun control. (Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune via AP, File)

The nation recently mourned the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And as is his responsibility under the Constitution, the president has nominated a successor: Amy Coney Barrett. Judge Barrett has impressive credentials and has been widely praised by legal scholars, her students, and her colleagues. She clearly warrants confirmation.  

While Senator Richard Shelby has declared his support, Senator Doug Jones has already said that he will oppose her nomination. That’s a mistake, and Jones should reconsider. 

The Supreme Court is charged with defending the rights and liberties of the American people. All too often, government is prone to encroach on those rights, and we look to the Court to step in and draw a bright line to protect our freedoms. We know that not every nominee to the federal bench understands that role and is willing and able to fulfill it. So when a Senator refuses to even consider a candidate who is highly qualified to do just that, it’s a serious error. 

Our Constitution empowers Congress to write the laws that govern our nation. The executive branch is responsible for administering and enforcing those laws. And the judiciary both resolves disputes between private litigants and adjudicates constitutional disputes.  While all three have an equal duty to act as a check and balance against the other, the judiciary typically has the final say.

To accomplish that, we count on judges to set aside their personal policy goals and instead issue rulings based on the plain text of the law and the Constitution. This preserves the rights of all Americans to settle important policy questions for ourselves through our elected representatives at all levels of government. To paraphrase Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch in his confirmation hearings, a judge who likes every outcome he or she reaches is very likely a bad judge. 

We’ve already elected lawmakers – including Senator Jones. We don’t need the Supreme Court to do that job. We need the Justices to apply the plain text of the laws to the cases before them. Senator Jones should be among the last people to want the Justices to take over his job. 

Judge Barrett has shown throughout her career that she understands the role that judges should play in our constitutional system. In her work as a clerk for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, during her time as a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, and in her current role as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, she has given every indication that she is prepared to fulfill that role on the Supreme Court. Beyond that, she has earned bipartisan praise for her intellect, work, and temperament. In all these respects, she is highly qualified for the position to which she is nominated. 

  The Senate faces an important question.  It would be a mistake to fail to confirm an extremely talented and capable judge to serve as associate justice of the highest court in the land. Amy Coney Barrett is such a candidate. 

Sadly however, Senator Jones has said that he refuses even to consider Ms. Barrett’s qualifications. Instead, he will vote against her if that vote occurs earlier than he would prefer. That’s a mistake, and we can only hope he will reconsider. A “yes” vote is the right one in terms of protecting our liberties and upholding the rule of law. So in the weeks ahead, when the Senate votes on Judge Barrett’s nomination, Senator Jones should join his colleagues in support of her nomination. 

Casey Mattox is vice president of legal and judicial strategy at Americans for Prosperity. He is a native of Collinsville, and a former clerk of the Alabama Supreme Court.