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GOP senator praises Barrett's 'unique' experience of having Black children

But Amy Coney Barrett has a background of dismissing racial discrimination.

By Oliver Willis - October 13, 2020
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Josh Hawley

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) on Tuesday described Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s role as the mother of Black children as existing in a “unique context” and asked how it would affect her rulings.

Barrett is the mother of two children who were born in Haiti.

“You and your husband are the parents of a multiracial family,” Hawley said. “Can you give us some sense just in your personal experience what that has been like for you, what that means to you, what experience you bring to the bench because of your experience as a parent in this unique context?”

Barrett told Hawley that her personal experiences “don’t dictate how I decide cases” and asserted that “in applying the law and deciding cases, [I] don’t let those experiences dictate the outcome.”

In fact, in her role as a federal judge, Barrett upheld the dismissal of a workplace discrimination lawsuit brought by an Illinois transportation employee who said his supervisor had used a racial epithet.

She noted in her opinion that while “the n-word is an egregious racial epithet,” the plaintiff in the case, Smith v. Illinois Department of Transportation, “can’t win simply by proving that the word was uttered.” She argued that despite the racist language, the plaintiff had not proven that a hostile or abusive working environment had been created, and stated bluntly that his experience on the job “had nothing to do with his race.”

From the Oct. 13 hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee:

SEN. JOSH HAWLEY: You and your husband are the parents of a multiracial family.

 

AMY CONEY BARRETT: We are.

 

HAWLEY: Can you give us some sense, just in your personal experience, what that has been like for you, what that means to you, what experience you bring to the bench because of your experience as a parent in this unique context?

 

BARRETT: Well, I think I could say how it has shaped me as a person. It has certainly — you know, whenever you have a life experience that makes you acutely aware in your interactions with other people, it gives you empathy for them. I mean, the same is true of our having a son with a disability.

 

But I want to make very clear, Sen. Hawley, that while my life experiences, I think, I hope have given me wisdom and compassion, they don’t dictate how I decide cases. Because you know, as we discussed before, and I’ve discussed a couple of times, sometimes you have to decide cases in ways where you don’t like the result.

 

So while I hope that my family has made me a better person, and my children definitely have given me new perspectives on life, I still, in applying the law and deciding cases, don’t let those experiences dictate the outcome.

 

HAWLEY: You’ll follow the law wherever the law leads?

 

BARRETT: Yes.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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