The Volokh Conspiracy

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Supreme Court

Justice Barrett Says "Read the Opinion"

The Associated Press reports on the junior-most Justice's remarks at the Reagan library.


Yesterday Justice Amy Coney Barrett spoke at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. According to this AP report, Justice Barrett cautioned against interpreting judicial decisions as political statements or assuming that judges are driven by policy results.

When controversial decisions are handed down, Justice Barrett noted, one should read the opinion before reaching conclusions about why the Court decided the case the way it did. From the story:

"Does (the decision) read like something that was purely results driven and designed to impose the policy preferences of the majority, or does this read like it actually is an honest effort and persuasive effort, even if one you ultimately don't agree with, to determine what the Constitution and precedent requires?" she asked.

Americans should judge the court — or any federal court — by its reasoning, she said. "Is its reasoning that of a political or legislative body, or is its reasoning judicial?" she asked.

Asked about the advice she would give a new justice (which seems like a timely question given she will almost certainly be joined by Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson this summer), she responded:

"I think one of the difficult things that I experienced that I wasn't really fully prepared for, was the shift into being a public figure," she said. "Also, security is much different now. … We all have security details and that's different."

The story also noted that Justice Barrett drew at least one heckler, who briefly interrupted her remarks, but this did not seem to faze the junior-most justice. "As a mother of seven, I am used to distractions and sometimes even outbursts," Justice Barrett said after the interruption. Justice Barrett also reportedly expressed some skepticism about allowing cameras into the courtroom.