Justice Amy Coney Barrett argues Supreme Court isn't 'a bunch of partisan hacks'

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — In the wake of a controversial decision on abortion rights, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett told a crowd of more than 100 here that she doesn't believe the highest court in the land is politically driven.

“My goal today is to convince you that this court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks,” she told the guests at a Sunday celebration of the 30th anniversary of the opening of the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville.

Barrett, who was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2020, spent much of her talk at the Seelbach Hilton Hotel arguing the court is defined by "judicial philosophies" rather than personal political views.

"Judicial philosophies are not the same as political parties," she said, noting that she identifies as an "originalist" and citing fellow Justice Stephen Breyer as an example of the other main school of thought, "pragmatism."

Barrett cited a number of cases in which the nine justices on the court did not rule along "party lines" — meaning each justice appointed by Republican voting together and each justice appointed by a Democrat doing the same.

"The media, along with hot takes on Twitter, report the results and decisions. … That makes the decision seem results-oriented. It leaves the reader to judge whether the court was right or wrong, based on whether she liked the results of the decision," Barrett said.

"And here's the thing: Sometimes, I don't like the results of my decisions. But it's not my job to decide cases based on the outcome I want."

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Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was in attendance at the event — in addition to Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams, U of L President Neeli Bendapudi and others — and introduced Barrett.

He praised the court's most junior justice for not trying to "legislate from the bench" and for being from "Middle America," noting the Indiana native is the only current justice to not attend Harvard or Yale.

Kentucky's senior senator was Senate majority leader at the time of Barrett's appointment, the third time Republican President Donald Trump filled a seat on the Supreme Court.

McConnell faced criticism from Democrats for his handling of judicial vacancies during his time running the Senate, and that was a focus of many of the protesters who gathered outside Sunday's event.

"I'm aware that they stay in power through unethical and unscrupulous means. … I'm just tired of it," said a woman dressed like a handmaiden from "The Handmaid's Tale" series, who declined to give her name.

Related: Planned Parenthood protests Texas abortion law outside Sen. Mitch McConnell's home

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett made remarks during a lecture at the McConnell Center held at the Seelbach Hotel in Louisville, Ky. on Sep. 12, 2021.  U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell looked on at right.
U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett made remarks during a lecture at the McConnell Center held at the Seelbach Hotel in Louisville, Ky. on Sep. 12, 2021. U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell looked on at right.

The court's recent decision to deny an emergency appeal to block a Texas law banning abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, virtually outlawing the procedure because most don't know they're pregnant before that point, was another point of contention with the group of about 30 protesters outside the event.

"With what's been happening in Texas, I don't want it to spread to Kentucky. … And so, we're just coming to let Mitch know how a lot of citizens feel about this issue," Jane Martin Buckley, of Louisville, said.

Barrett was asked about the decision and the so-called "shadow docket" by a group of students in the McConnell Scholars program during the event but said "emergency" decisions such as this one can come before the court again, so it would be "inappropriate" for her to comment on the case.

McConnell founded the center bearing his name in 1991. It gives U of L scholarships to students around Kentucky, hosts a public speaker series and houses the archives of McConnell and his wife, Elaine Chao, the former U.S. transportation secretary.

Follow Mary Ramsey on Twitter @mcolleen1996

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Justice Amy Coney Barrett says Supreme Court is not politically driven