Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett said this week she doesn’t have a problem with public scrutiny of the nation’s highest judicial institution and that she can take it because she has “thick skin.”
“With everything, there can be good and bad,” Barrett said at a conference of judges and lawyers at Lake Geneva, Wis., on Monday, the Washington Post reported. “With the court being in the news, to the extent that it engages people with the work of the court, and paying attention to the court and knowing what the courts do and what the Constitution has to say, that’s a positive development.”
But there is a downside as well, she said, and that is when there are misperceptions about the high court’s work and role in the uniquely American system or if there is a sense that the court has “let people down.”
“Justices and all judges are public figures, and public criticism kind of comes with the job,” she said, adding that it was only a couple of years ago that she was working as a law professor at the University of Notre Dame and was far from the public eye.
“But I’ve been at it for a couple of years now, and I’ve acquired a thick skin, and I think that’s what public figures have to do; I think that’s what all judges have to do,” Coney Barrett added.
On Monday, Barrett was speaking to the 7th Circuit Judicial Conference. Like college football coaches addressing their fan bases before the fall, this is “talking season” for the justices, before a new term begins in October. Often such interviews are with lower court judges with a list of questions agreed on in advance. Some justices are more outspoken than others.
Barrett took the noncontroversial route, as she was gently interviewed by Diane S. Sykes, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago and a former colleague who was also on Trump’s list of candidates for the Supreme Court.
Earlier this year, in a move that surprised few political observers, Democrats and their allies in the media treated Democrat-appointed Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson differently than Coney Barrett, who was nominated by former President Donald Trump.
Jackson is working on a memoir titled “Lovely One,” which will detail her journey to becoming “the first Black woman appointed to the court.”
“Mine has been an unlikely journey. But the path was paved by courageous women and men in whose footsteps I placed my own, road warriors like my own parents, and also luminaries in the law, whose brilliance and fortitude lit my way. This memoir marries the public record of my life with what is less known. It will be a transparent accounting of what it takes to rise through the ranks of the legal profession, especially as a woman of color with an unusual name and as a mother and a wife striving to reconcile the demands of a high-profile career with the private needs of my loved ones,” Jackson said in a statement released by Penguin Random House.
She got glowing reviews from Democrats and most media outlets.
The Supreme Court Justice’s book’s title comes from the English translation of Ketanji Onyika, the name suggested by an aunt who at the time was a Peace Corps worker in West Africa. https://t.co/iGraduAjjJ
— CBS Sunday Morning 🌞 (@CBSSunday) January 9, 2023
Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson is writing a memoir https://t.co/wx8KQke8DJ
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) January 8, 2023
In April 2021, Justice Barrett signed a book deal with Penguin Random House — the same publisher as Justice Jackson — but was treated much differently.
Washington Post reporters Ann Marimow and Emma Brown alleged that Barrett’s financial disclosures “come at a tense moment for the court after the leak of a draft majority opinion, written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., that would overturn the long-standing constitutional right to obtain an abortion.”
They also implied that Barrett was using a loophole in ethics rules because “Federal ethics rules limit justices to ‘outside earned income’ of no more than about $30,000 per year, . . . [b]ut book-writing payments do not count as ‘outside earned income,’ allowing justices to strike lucrative contracts with publishers.”
Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick charged that Barrett had broken some rule with “unethical” behavior because she had not been present on the Court long enough to ink a book deal.
Chicago Tribune’s Timothy O’Brien whined that Barrett getting the book deal proved the “Supreme Court’s ethics problems” and that “a lot of hand-wringing has accompanied Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s $2 million book deal.”
Also, hundreds of employees at Penguin Random House signed an open letter demanding that the publisher cancel the deal, but executives refused to back down.