Amy Coney Barrett’s college alumni sign letter opposing her Supreme Court nomination

US Supreme Court hopeful Amy Coney Barrett graduated with honors in 1994 from a small liberal arts school — Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee

Gino Spocchia
Saturday 03 October 2020 13:32
Donald Trump unveils Supreme Court pick Amy Coney Barrett

More than 1,500 college alumni have signed a letter in opposition to fellow former student Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the US Supreme Court by president Donald Trump.

In a statement issued by alumni of Rhodes College, Memphis, Tennessee, more than 1,500 signatories said they “firmly and passionately opposed" Ms Barrett’s selection because she did not  represent their views and values.

Ms Barrett, who graduated from the liberal arts school in 1994, went on to establish a career as a conservative judge before her nomination to the United States’ highest court. 

Outlining Ms Barrett's stances on abortion law, the LBGTQ community and the Affordable Care Act, Rhodes alumni Rob Marus, Katherine Morgan Breslin, and 1,513 alumni said they were also “firmly and passionately opposed to Rhodes administrators’ attempts to embrace Amy Coney Barrett as an alumna of our beloved alma mater,”

“We oppose this embrace because 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.”

Ms Barrett's nomination to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an abortion rights supporter and liberal icon who died 18 September, swiftly elicited praise from Republicans and conservatives — and dismay from liberals and Democrats. 

Opposing sides have since rained down statements for or against appointing Ms Barrett, who is currently a Chicago-based federal appeals court judge.

Before Ms Barrett's time, the school already had a Supreme Court connection via Abe Fortas, who graduated in 1930 before becoming a justice.

“Judge Coney Barrett participates in this tradition of academic excellence,” Mr Hass' statement said.

Ms Barrett's abortion views are a particular point of contention, having voted at least twice on abortion issues as an appellate judge, both times joining dissenting opinions to decisions that favoured abortion rights.

The Rhodes alumni letter was signed by students who graduated as far back as 1959, and some who knew Ms Barrett and were in her graduating class. It expresses concerns that she might vote to overturn or “seriously curtail” Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling that declared abortion a constitutional right.

The letter accuses her of sidestepping questions about how she would rule if the abortion case were challenged before the Supreme Court. And it claims she has deflected questions about her stance toward the LGBTQ community and her alleged association with an anti-LBGTQ group.

“Amy Coney Barrett has repeatedly shaded the truth about her own views and past associations,” the letter said. It added that Barrett "has demonstrated a judicial philosophy and record that fails to serve and protect the vulnerable in our society, including immigrants, those in the criminal justice system, and individuals reliant on the Affordable Care Act."

In a subsequent statement following the alumni's letter, Hass encouraged “all members of the Rhodes community to rise to this moment with courage and to speak, act, and vote in the service of justice.”

“I hope that your letter — as well as the support, dissent, and attention it has generated — serves as a spur for robust engagement with the political process,” Mr Hass wrote. She stood by her previous letter and public remarks praising Barrett’s “exceptional record of academic achievement" at Rhodes.

"The college will continue to speak of her with respect and friendship," Mr Hass wrote. Later, she added, she was “happy to re-affirm my own commitment and the commitment of the college to stand against bigotry and for the rights of minority and marginalised students and alumni.”

Ms Barrett had no public comments on the letter.

Mr Trump said during Tuesday’s debate with Democratic challenger Joe Biden that he doesn’t know Ms Barrett’s views on Roe v. Wade and didn’t discuss them with her when they met at the White House three days after Ginsburg’s death.

Marus, co-author of the alumni letter, told The Associated Press the letter's signatories were upset and concerned the college's reputation could be diminished in the eyes of potential and current students who disagree with Ms Barrett and Mr Trump. He called her views “antediluvian," adding some alumni are terrified of any lifetime appointment for Ms Barrett to the court.

“We thought it was time to speak out,” said Mr Marus. “We never thought we'd change how the Senate voted on her. What we wanted to affect was public perception of Rhodes, the education we received there.”

With agencies

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