The Truth About Amy Coney Barrett's Ties To Antonin Scalia

If there is one thing Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett wants the world to know, it's that she's proud of her links to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who passed away in 2016. In her prepared opening statement for her confirmation hearing, Barrett states: "... like many law students, I felt like I knew the justice before I ever met him, because I had read so many of his colorful, accessible opinions. More than the style of his writing, though, it was the content of Justice Scalia's reasoning that shaped me. His judicial philosophy was straightforward: A judge must apply the law as written, not as the judge wishes it were" (via Fox News).

She added: "Sometimes that approach meant reaching results that he did not like. But as he put it in one of his best known opinions, that is what it means to say we have a government of laws, not of men. Justice Scalia taught me more than just law. He was devoted to his family, resolute in his beliefs, and fearless of criticism. And as I embarked on my own legal career, I resolved to maintain that same perspective."

Amy Coney Barrett clerked for Antonin Scalia

Barrett clerked for Antonin Scalia from 1997 to 1998. She tells The Times Picayune that she applied for the position after her professors encouraged her to do so. She describes the interview, saying: "We talked for a little while and then I went to another interview; this one was with his four law clerks. We sat in Justice Scalia's library and for about an hour, the four of them asked me a series a questions about the law. I knew the answers to most of what they were asking. Whatever case I didn't know, I didn't try to answer it. I just said I didn't know."

She said it wasn't long after that she received a call from Scalia. "I picked up the phone and the voice on the other end said 'please hold for Justice Scalia,' " Coney said. "I was so excited, my heart was racing. He comes on the line and starts asking me how I am and what's new. Then he says he wanted me to clerk for him after I completed my clerking with Judge [Laurence] Silberman. I immediately said 'yes' and began thanking him over and over again."

Amy Coney Barrett had to 'get inside' Scalia's mind as his clerk

As a law clerk, Coney Barrett would have been expected to carry out the same tasks as other persons who were hired at the same time. Their roles included reading petitions and summarizing them for the Justices, preparing Scalia for any oral arguments, writing first drafts of what would become his opinions, rewriting other drafts, and to help with other projects that Scalia would have been working on at the time of their appointments (via SCOTUSblog).

One of his former law clerks, Tara Kole, describes the position in an op-ed for The Washington Post, saying: "...the job is a strange one. To assist in the writing of opinions, clerks have to get inside a justice's mind to think as they do and to write as they would. My role was to facilitate his, and sometimes that was easier than others."

Another clerk who has served under Scalia and who has gone on to serve in the Trump White House is the current Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar II.