With divisive cases coming, Barrett says 'Read the opinion'

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U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett speaks with Board of Trustees Chairman Frederick J. Ryan, Jr., at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Foundation in Simi Valley, Calif., Monday, April 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

LOS ANGELES – Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett said Monday that judges are not deciding cases to impose a “policy result,” but are making their best effort to determine what the law and the Constitution require.

In a nation splintered by partisanship and wracked by incivility, Barrett in remarks at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library appeared to acknowledge that expected court decisions on reproductive rights and gun control would be seen through a political lens and lead to division. She urged Americans to “read the opinion” and consider the court's reasoning before making judgments about the outcome.

“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.

The program was briefly interrupted by a heckler. Barrett said afterward, “As a mother of seven, I am used to distractions and sometimes even outbursts,” which elicited a round of applause from the capacity crowd.

The group Rise4AbortionRightsLA claimed credit for the brief protest and posted a video on its Twitter account showing a woman shouting toward Barrett: “You are an enslaver of women.” In its tweet, the group said, “Only the people can prevent the Supreme Court from overturning the right to abortion.”

In a wide-ranging, 45-minute interview at the hilltop library, Barrett also spoke dubiously of introducing cameras to the high court, defended free speech rights and admitted she is a lousy basketball shot.

While she said she was not expressing an opinion on cameras in the courtroom, she added “people don’t behave the same when they know that there’s a camera there.”

Barrett’s appearance at the library — in Simi Valley, northwest of Los Angeles — came on the same day that Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney said they will vote to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court, bolstering bipartisan support for the first Black woman to be nominated.

Barrett was asked what advice she would have for a new justice.

“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.”

Barrett was nominated by then-President Donald Trump to fill the vacancy after the death of liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was confirmed without Democratic support in late October 2020 – just days before the election — in a deeply divided Senate, 52-48. Her approval by the Senate’s Republican majority cemented conservative control of the court.