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Who is Amy Coney Barrett, Donald Trump’s pick for Supreme Court justice?

If confirmed to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Amy Coney Barrett would become the fifth woman ever to serve on the top US judicial body. Source: AAP

Set to be the youngest justice on the United States’ Supreme Court bench, religious conservative Amy Coney Barrett could influence the country for decades to come.

At 48 years old, Amy Coney Barrett will be the youngest justice on the United States' Supreme Court, if confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate.

And in a system where the role is held for life, her youth could mean she influences American society for many decades to come.

The conservative judge was selected by President Donald Trump just weeks before the US election, following the death of progressive Supreme Court veteran Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

But who is she, and what will her appointment mean for America?

'Brilliant and gifted'

Announcing his nomination of Judge Barrett, President Trump described her as one of the "most brilliant and gifted minds" in America.

After growing up in New Orleans, she became a top student at Notre Dame law school in Indiana. Early on in her career, she worked for renowned conservative Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, who she praised following her nomination.

US President Donald Trump walks with Judge Amy Coney Barrett to announce her nomination for Supreme Court Justice.
US President Donald Trump walks with Judge Amy Coney Barrett to announce her nomination for Supreme Court Justice.
AP

"His [Antonin Scalia’s] judicial philosophy is mine too: a judge must apply the law as written. Judges are not policymakers," she said.

But despite being known for her great legal mind through teaching at Notre Dame, her first experience presiding over a courtroom came in 2017 when she was appointed to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

She was one of Mr Trump's top picks to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy but lost the job to Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.

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Throughout her career, she's built a name for herself as a proud Catholic, with critics alleging her judgements are influenced by her ideological views. For her part, Judge Barrett has stated her religious beliefs do not influence her duties as a judge.

While working as an associate professor she reportedly told students that a "legal career is but a means to an end... and that end is building the Kingdom of God".

A devoutly religious mother-of-seven

Judge Barrett and her former federal prosecutor husband have seven children, including two who were adopted from Haiti, and live in Indiana. 

She is also a practising Roman Catholic and has previously taken positions indicating she is pro-gun rights, anti-migrants, against abortions, and critical of the Obamacare health law.

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In a now infamous encounter, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein told Judge Barrett the "dogma lives loudly within you" during her confirmation hearing to the appeals court.

Her opposition to abortion will likely play a key role in a Senate push, championed by Mr Trump, to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which established a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy in the US.

Justice Ginsburg, who Judge Barrett would replace, was a staunch defender of abortion rights during her 27 years on the Supreme Court bench.

Why is this appointment important?

The death of Justice Ginsburg has cleared the way for a 6-3 conservative majority on the nine-member court, which is instrumental in making decisions that influence all corners of American life.  

The Supreme Court, the highest court in the country, is described on its own website as the "guardian and interpreter of the US constitution". In practice, this means ruling on whether laws are unconstitutional, settling disputes between states, and acting in any matters involving ambassadors or diplomats.

The US Supreme Court Bench draped for the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The US Supreme Court Bench draped for the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

Some past landmark decisions of the court include the 1954 ruling that racial segregation of public schools was unconstitutional and the 2015 ruling that led to all states in the US recognising same-sex marriage. 

It is also possible the court will be asked to settle disputes arising from the presidential election on the 9 November. 

If Judge Barrett is confirmed, there will be three Justices appointed by Democratic presidents and six by Republicans (including three nominated by Mr Trump).

Following the death of Justice Ginsburg, Mr Trump has rushed to cement a Republican appointment to fill the vacancy before a possible change of power.

Like Mr Trump's two other appointees, Neil Gorsuch in 2017 and Justice Kavanaugh, Judge Barrett is young enough that she could serve for decades - as federal judges have life tenure - shifting the United States to the right on key issues.

With AFP

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