(Since the previous post, Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed by the Republican controlled Senate, without a single Democratic, and Republican President Trump who nominated her was defeated in the election by Democratic candidate Joe Biden. Back to now-Justice Barrett.)
|Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS
And need I repeat, not judicially conservative, as in judicial restraint, strict interpretation, adherence to stare decisis, deference to the laws and policies of the elected branches and the states, textualism, originalism, etc. But politically conservative, as in voting like a conservative Republican politician would vote on the those "hot-button" issues like guns, abortion, immigration, criminal law, etc. Whether that's good or bad, right or wrong, wise or foolish is not the point. It's just what her record is.
From the time she was nominated by President Trump and confirmed by the Senate to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017, Barrett disagreed publicly with the majority of her colleagues on that court several times. That is, she dissented either in a separate opinion of her own or, at times, she voted to join a dissent written by others. When she did dissent, it was uniformly for the politically conservative legal result. And as judicial scholars understand, dissents are extremely revealing.
Dissents tell us what it is that a judge thought--oftentimes, felt--was very important. So important that it justified going public with a disagreement. Consider that the dissenting judge is announcing to the world, "I lost." The judge is announcing that, despite having lost the majority vote, "I feel compelled to register a public disagreement."
A public disagreement, that is, instead of going along with the majority. Instead of going along to get along. It entails expending collegial capital. Irritating and, yes, sometimes antagonizing the majority by telling the world that my colleagues on the court are so seriously wrong, about something that is so seriously consequential, that the public must know just how wrong they are and how their decision is so harmful to the law, society, or both.
Beyond that, if the judge who disagrees with the majority is actually authoring a dissenting opinion--i.e., not just voting to join someone else's dissenting opinion--that judge is personally choosing to expend time and effort and the resources of her chambers to engage in a public act of protest. She is not required to do so. There's no institutional requirement or obligatory directive that she must do so. This is purely a matter of personal choice. So too is casting a vote to join another dissenting colleague, even if not as exacting as writing one's own dissenting opinion.
That's a long way of restating that dissents are very revealing. Voting in dissent and, even more so, writing a dissenting opinion.
So let's start looking at then-Judge (now-Justice) Barrett's dissents. Let's consider the common threads. You know: connect the dots.
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