Amy Coney Barrett: A Judge Declares Independence from Congress, President, Private Beliefs

The White House

Newly sworn-in Supreme Court associate justice Amy Coney Barrett emphasized the fundamental differences between the federal judiciary and the legislature in a speech following her swearing-in ceremony.

Barrett explained that a judge “declares independence not only from Congress and the president but also from the private beliefs that might otherwise move her.”

Justice Clarence Thomas administered the oath Monday night, shortly after the GOP-led Senate voted to confirm Barrett to the Supreme Court of the United States. In a speech following the ceremony, Barrett expressed gratitude for having the opportunity to serve on the highest court in the land and pledged to “discharge my duties to the very best of my abilities.”

During her brief address, Barrett explained the difference between the federal judiciary and Congress, as the confirmation process, she said, made the differences even “clearer” to her.

“And perhaps the most acute is the role of policy preferences. It is the job of a senator to pursue her policy preferences. In fact, it would be a dereliction of duty for her to put policy goals aside,” Barrett said.

“By contrast, it is the job of a judge to resist her policy preferences. It would be a dereliction of duty for her to give in to them. Federal judges don’t stand for election,” she continued. “Thus they have no basis for claiming that their preferences reflect those of the people.”

“This separation of duty from political preference is what makes the judiciary distinct among the three branches of government,” she added:

A judge declares independence not only from Congress and the president but also from the private beliefs that might otherwise move her. The judicial oath captures the essence of the judicial duty. The rule of law must always control. My fellow Americans, even though we judges don’t face elections, we still work for you. It is your Constitution that establishes the rule of law and the judicial independence that is so central to it.

Barrett added that her oath “means at its core” that she will do her job “without any fear or favor” and that she will do so “independently of both the political branches and of my own preferences.”

“I love the Constitution and the democratic republic that it establishes, and I will devote myself to preserving it,” she added.

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