Supreme Court Nominations

Barrett had ‘rare gift of lifting everyone around her;' former clerk and law student praise her kindness

  • Print


Amanda Rauh-Bieri and Laura Wolk speak during the fourth day of Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearing. Images from C-SPAN.

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett is kind and brilliant, according to a former law clerk and a former law student who said she has been a mentor and source of encouragement.

Barrett “has the rare gift of lifting everyone around her,” said Amanda Rauh-Bieri, a law clerk during Barrett’s first term on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Chicago.

Rauh-Bieri testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday along with former University of Notre Dame law student Laura Wolk.

Rauh-Bieri said she could tell from the beginning of her clerkship that Barrett had a rare set of qualities. She was a brilliant thinker who analyzes issues with striking clarity and precision. She was dedicated and disciplined, as well as thoughtful and compassionate. She approaches each case with an open mind, appreciates the real-life impact of her decisions, and writes with empathy.

Barrett created a culture that encouraged her clerks to voice their opinions, even if the judge would ultimately disagree, Rauh-Bieri said. The judge approached her colleagues with same gracious humility that she showed to her law clerks.

Rauh-Bieri said she was unsure of herself in law school, and she didn’t know whether she had what it takes to succeed. Barrett’s example and mentorship inspired confidence that Rauh-Bieri didn’t know she had.

Wolk said she had a life-changing interaction with Barrett soon after she began law school at the University of Notre Dame. Wolk is blind, and she relies heavily on assisted technology. Before arriving at the school, Wolk worked hard to make sure that the law school would have a backup for her technology. But the backup wasn’t available, and almost “on cue” Wolk’s personal laptop began to fail.

Wolk said she talked with Barrett about her concerns, expressing concerns about the technology failure, as well as her fears of failing in class. When Wolk had finished, Barrett told her: “This is no longer your problem; it’s my problem.”

The technology quickly arrived, allowing Wolk to excel. She is now the first blind person to clerk for a Supreme Court justice.

Wolk said Barrett has remained a constant source of strength, encouragement and solace.

“She has given me a gift of immeasurable value, the ability to live an abundant life with the potential to break down barriers,” Wolk said.

If Barrett is confirmed, the country “will gain the service of one of the kindest individuals I have ever known,” Wolk said.

Rauh-Bieri and Wolk were among eight speakers at Barrett’s confirmation hearing Thursday who followed representatives of the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary. The ABA representatives testified about the reasons for Barrett’s “well qualified” rating.

Others on the panel included an abortion rights advocate who had an abortion at age 16 using a judicial bypass law and a mother whose twin girls’ medical needs are covered by insurance as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

Before the panelists spoke, Democrats tried without success to delay indefinitely the confirmation process. Among those who sought delay was Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey.

Booker said the confirmation hearing was happening at a time of crisis that includes food lines, high unemployment and a president who refuses to commit to a peaceful transfer of power. What is needed, he said, is a “revival of civic grace.”

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.