An Open Letter to Judge Barrett from a Fellow Woman in the Law
Dear Judge Barrett:
I am a South Asian American woman and an attorney in Chicago in practice for 8 years. I write not because of my political or personal views; rather, I write from my concern for the sustainability of our democracy if you accept the Supreme Court vacancy.
As a woman in the law, your career and your ability to practice and now judge law rests on the shoulders of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The fact of your nomination is a direct consequence of the work put in by the women who came before you — those who put a love of democracy before and above all else.
As someone who has repeatedly expressed an abiding respect for the law and for the Constitution of the United States, please look at the world that burns around you. Your fellow citizens are dying — from an unyielding pandemic, from a system of racism and discrimination that prioritizes police authority over Black lives, from a failure to recognize that we are each created equally.
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor once said: “If I stumbled badly in doing the job, I think it would have made life more difficult for women, and that was a great concern of mine and still is.”
Judge Barrett, your acceptance of this nomination during a tumultuous election season in a frenzied way while our country continues to confront a pandemic and a renewed fight for civil rights troubles me. As a fellow legal scholar who sees her job as to help others before helping myself, it troubles me because you have chosen to put your career advancement ahead of the needs of our nation. It troubles me because, if (and likely when) you are confirmed today, you will have taken this step forward not for our country or for the good of the republic, but you have taken this step for yourself and yourself alone, that you have acted from a place of personal desire and partiality to self as opposed to a genuine desire to serve the American public. By playing into the political game of your nomination and confirmation, you have become a pawn in Donald Trump’s game and risk long-lasting damage to the legacy of Justice Ginsburg and Justice O’Connor. Moreover, your decision to allow yourself to be used in this way dissuades any woman in the law (or in any profession) from believing that she can reach positions of power based on her merits alone; rather, your message relays that a woman in the law must rely on politics of the day and currying partisan favor to achieve success.
Judge Barrett, please do not force this reversal of history.
If you see the pain that plagues our people, you surely must see that accepting this nomination in an era devoid of any stability or adherence to the rules only enflames the collective suffering of our country at this moment in time.
Prior to accepting President Trump’s nomination, I think most in the bar would agree that you did not stumble in your practice and adjudication of the law and that you are a qualified jurist; however, now, I fear that, by accepting this nomination, you have not merely stumbled, but you have fallen disgracefully on the job.
I fear that, because you’ve chosen to put your career advancement ahead of the needs of the country, you will not administer justice impartially, that you will continue to do what you need to do to advance your career in line with your values, when you are being called to spend the rest of your working life as a public servant.
As a fellow student of the law, I beseech you to take a moment to consider whether you will be able to “administer justice without respect to persons” given the nature of your nomination, particularly in light of the time, place, and persons involved. If you truly believe that you are fit for this position, then it seems to me that your faith should guide you to decline the nomination until you, like your predecessor Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, can speak plainly and with transparency in your confirmation hearing instead of issuing redundant and generic statements akin to a judicial exercise of the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
If you proceed down the current path, where you reach the pinnacle of your career path through a muddied confirmation process, I, along with millions of others, will wonder always whether your decisions reflect your judicial oath and your authentic commitment to a faithful and impartial discharge of your judicial duties under the Constitution and the laws of the United States.
Judge Barrett, laws are created “by and for” the people, but you have neglected the human suffering that envelops your nomination. The words of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor again come to mind: “Liberty finds no refuge in a jurisprudence of doubt.” Proceed down this path, and I fear your legacy will begin with a permanent stain that does not reflect the career you’ve worked hard to cultivate. Abstain from this process, and I believe that the law, a love that you and I share, will reward your faithfulness.
As a young lawyer looking to you to be prudential, to be transparent, to be impartial, to be the best of our profession, please walk away from this nomination process until you can be a part of the highest court of our land without political restraint and without the jurisprudence of doubt. Be a part of our democracy, not an obstacle toward liberty. If you want to serve the American people and remind our country that law and civility still exist, I urge you to decline the President’s rushed nomination, and remind our country that the human conscience still exists in American leadership. After all, what does a seat on the Supreme Court mean if democracy ceases to exist?
Yours, in law,
Priti Nemani, Esq.