WASHINGTON — Amy Coney Barrett, a federal appellate court judge, has emerged as one of the front-runners to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, three sources told NBC News.
Barrett, 48, was on the shortlist in 2018 to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy when President Donald Trump — who on Saturday called her “very respected” — ultimately selected Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
The sources note that Barrett has been vetted and is a “known quantity” given her 2017 confirmation to sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit based in Chicago. Trump also said his
Republicans thought she performed well in that venue and defended herself against allegations that her religious beliefs would color her legal judgment.
At the time, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told her, “The dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s a concern.”
Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.
Barrett responded, “It’s never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions, whether they arise from faith or anywhere else, on the law.”
Among Barrett’s perceived pluses from a GOP perspective is that she’s well-regarded by the religious right given her ardent opposition to abortion and her devout Catholic faith, she’s a former clerk to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, she’s a woman — viewed as a prerequisite in replacing the feminist icon Ginsburg — and is also a mother to seven children.
Trump also said his nominee would “most likely” be a woman.
Ginsburg, a lifelong champion of women’s rights and a fierce advocate for gender equality, died Friday “surrounded by her family at her home in Washington, D.C., due to complications of metastatic pancreas cancer,” according to a statement from the court.
The potential obstacles for Barrett are her views on abortion, which could complicate her confirmation, given that her position is the polar opposite of Ginsburg’s legacy on abortion rights. Separately, a number of LGBTQ and civil rights organizations were quick to share their concerns about her when she first emerged on the president’s court shortlist.
Attention is also being focused on 38-year-old North Carolina native Allison Rushing, who currently serves as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit based in Virginia. But as NBC News reported at the time of her confirmation: “While Rushing made headlines for becoming one of the youngest and least experienced members of the federal judiciary, she also garnered attention because of her decadelong association with one of the most well-known anti-gay groups.”
In addition, two other judges are under serious consideration to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, according to multiple sources familiar with the vetting process.
One is Barbara Lagoa, a 52-year-old from Florida, who is a judge on U.S Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit based in Georgia; the other is Amul Thapar, 51, who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit based in Cincinnati and is a favorite of Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
While the White House will drive the nomination process in concert with Senate Republicans, the Trump campaign is likely to help fuel the GOP push to fill the Supreme Court vacancy. A campaign official, for instance, says the re-election effort will continue to pressure Joe Biden to release a list of potential Supreme Court nominees.
As for thetimeframe, Trump tweeted early Saturday that Republicans have an “obligation” to move forward “without delay!” Biden on Friday night said that Ginsburg’s replacement should not come until after the election.
While the timing is fluid, Trump said on Saturday that a nominee would be announced “next week.”
Geoff Bennett is a White House correspondent for NBC News.