Laura Wolk, former student of Amy Coney Barrett, delivered a powerful testimony during Barrett’s U.S. Supreme Court nomination hearing on Thursday, stating that “Judge Barrett will serve this country with distinction, not only because of her intellectual prowess, but also because of her ability to treat everyone as an equal, deserving of complete respect.”
“In part because of her unwavering support, I am the first blind woman to serve as a law clerk on the Supreme Court of the United States,” affirmed Wolk during her testimony. “It is now my immense privilege to appear before you in support of Judge Barrett’s nomination to that same great institution.”
“Should you confirm Amy Barrett, the country will receive something far greater than simply an unparalleled legal mind; it will gain the service of one of the kindest individuals I have ever known,” continued Wolk. “Her brilliance is matched only by her compassion, and her integrity is unassailable.”
“I am not speaking in mere abstractions here, rather, I have experienced these characteristics firsthand, with life-changing results,” she added. “Because I am completely blind, I rely heavily on assistive technology to compete on a level playing field with my cited peers.”
Wolk continued, telling her story:
Before arriving at Notre Dame Law School in 2013, I worked hard to ensure that the university would purchase backup copies of the technology I use, but upon arrival, I discovered that bureaucratic glitches left me without access to that technology, and on cue, my personal laptop immediately began to fail. Overnight, I found myself struggling to keep up in class, falling increasingly behind with each passing hour. I needed help, and I needed it fast.
Based [on] my past experience, I assumed that Judge Barrett would simply direct me to the proper bureaucratic channels, which could still take weeks, if not longer to navigate. But Judge Barret did something altogether different. She silently listened with deep attention as I explained my situation, giving me the freedom to let down my guard and come apart. As a disabled person, I am accustomed to acting as if I have everything under control, when in reality the world feels like it is spinning out from under me.
But in front of Judge Barrett, I was able to let the mask slip and indeed to disappear completely. I poured out all my concerns, not just about technology and my worries about failing classes, but all the burdens I currently carried as a disabled woman navigating a brand new environment. When I finished, Judge Barrett leaned forward and looked at me intently. “Laura,” she said, with the same measured conviction that we have seen displayed throughout her entire nomination process, “This is no longer your problem; it’s my problem.”
I can’t capture [adequately] the relief that washed over me in her words, her offer was rare enough in its own right, but even when such offers are extended, many unfortunately do not follow through. It’s hard to trust an offer of assistance, no matter how desperately it is needed or earnestly it is given. Not so with Judge Barrett.
Anyone who has interacted with her knows that she is a woman of her word. She means what she says and she says what she means. When she promised to advocate for me, she commanded my trust. To this day, I do not know what Judge Barrett did to solve my problem — all I know is that the technology arrived promptly, which in turn allowed me to excel and to place me in a position that would eventually allow me to apply for clerkship on the Supreme Court.
“This encounter was the first in which Judge Barrett demonstrated the depth of her generous spirit, but it was far from the last,” said Wolk. “She has remained a constant source of strength, encouragement, and solace, as I have pursued professional and personal opportunities with no roadmap to guide me.”
“Those who have had the benefit of knowing Amy Coney Barrett understand that she possesses a boundless font of energy and a radical sense of love that she is ever ready to pour out upon those who are lucky enough to call her teacher, boss, family, and friend,” the former student added.
“Judge Barrett will serve this country with distinction, not only because of her intellectual prowess, but also because of her ability to treat everyone as an equal, deserving of complete respect,” she said.