Disability Groups Oppose Supreme Court Nominee
With confirmation hearings set to begin next week for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, dozens of advocacy groups say her record suggests that she would be a threat to disability rights.
More than 50 disability advocacy groups are calling on senators to reject Barrett’s nomination, citing her record in cases relevant to disability rights — which they say “raises significant concern” — as well as the rushed nature of the confirmation process.
“We feel particularly strongly that her record shows that she will be hostile to issues crucial to people with disabilities,” said Alison Barkoff, director of advocacy at the Center for Public Representation, one of the groups that signed a letter sent to Senate leaders this week opposing the nomination.
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President Donald Trump nominated Barrett, 48, in late September to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who died little more than a week before. A former professor at the Notre Dame Law School, Barrett currently serves as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. She has seven children, including one with Down syndrome. If confirmed, Barrett would cement the Supreme Court’s conservative majority.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to begin considering Barrett’s nomination to the high court Monday as Republicans race to confirm her before the Nov. 3 election.
The letter to senators opposing Barrett’s nomination is signed by the American Association of People with Disabilities, the Association of University Centers on Disabilities, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law and the National Council on Independent Living, among others.
In it, the groups said they are particularly concerned that Barrett has written that she believes the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. The health care law, they say, has been vital to people with disabilities by expanding coverage, protecting those with pre-existing conditions, requiring coverage of mental health and habilitation services, increasing home- and community-based services options, and more. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a challenge to Affordable Care Act on Nov. 10 and Barrett could be confirmed in time to hear the case.
In addition, disability advocates said they’re troubled by Barrett’s dissent from a federal court ruling on the Trump administration’s “public charge” rule. The court determined that the rule, which would make it difficult for immigrants with disabilities to come to the U.S., discriminates against people with disabilities. But, Barrett found otherwise.
The organizations’ letter also cites Barrett’s decision in a case finding that Wisconsin did not discriminate based on disability even though its open-enrollment program required children with learning disabilities to apply for spots in other school districts separate from typically-developing children and allowed such students to be excluded because of their service needs.
Barrett’s record is in sharp contrast to that of Ginsburg, advocates note, who wrote the majority opinion in the landmark 1999 ruling in Olmstead v. L.C., which affirmed the right of people with disabilities to live in the community.
“It is imperative for the disability community that Justice Ginsburg’s replacement be someone who understands and respects the rights of people with disabilities,” reads the letter to senators. “Judge Barrett’s record demonstrates a hostility to rights that are critically important to people with disabilities.”
Beyond Barrett herself, the advocates said they have “grave concerns” with the “unprecedented acceleration of the confirmation process.” Typically, they said, there are nearly two months between the time a potential Supreme Court justice is nominated and the start of their hearings, allowing senators and the public an opportunity for a thorough review of the nominee’s record.
Meanwhile, Congress has stalled on passing an additional COVID-19 relief bill, even as the virus has disproportionately affected people with disabilities.
“The Senate must not place filling the vacancy left by Justice Ginsburg’s death ahead of passing desperately needed relief legislation,” the advocates wrote. “Filling such a vacancy cannot be considered a higher priority than passing a relief bill that will save lives and livelihoods during a global pandemic.”