Trump’s frontrunners for the Supreme Court nomination are a devout Catholic and Cuban-American judge

President Donald Trump‘s announced Saturday night that the Supreme Court nominee he plans to announce next week to fill the vacancy left by Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be a woman, spotlighting two conservative women as his potential pick. 

During a campaign rally in North Carolina, Trump declared ‘I will be putting forth a nominee this week, it will be a woman’, later adding his pick would be a ‘very talented, very brilliant woman’ because ‘I like women more than I like men’.  

As he left the White House for the rally, the president identified two women as front runners: Amy Coney Barrett, 48, of the Chicago-based 7th Circuit and Barbara Lagoa, 52, of the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit as possible nominees.

Barrett is a devout Catholic and mother of seven from Indiana, who has adopted two kids from Haiti and has a biological child with special needs.

She is a member of a Christian group name People of Praise, where members are assigned a ‘handmaiden’,  a personal adviser with whom they are encouraged to confess personal sins, financial information and other sensitive disclosures. 

The other named front runner is Lagoa, a Cuban American from Florida whose parents fled Castro five decades ago. She has spoken about how her father longed to be a lawyer but was forced to abandon his dream because of the communist leader. 

Her nomination has the potential to greatly aid Trump politically in the crucial swing state. 

The other five women on Trump’s shortlist of 20 names are Kate Todd, deputy White House counsel; Sarah Pitlyk, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri; Allison Jones Rushing, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit; Martha Pacold, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois; and Bridget Bade, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Emerging as the favorite as Trump's Supreme Court pick is Amy Coney Barrett, 48, a mother of seven children, including two adopted from Haiti and one with special needs

Emerging as the favorite as Trump's Supreme Court pick is Amy Coney Barrett, 48, a mother of seven children, including two adopted from Haiti and one with special needs

Emerging as the favorite as Trump’s Supreme Court pick is Amy Coney Barrett, 48, a mother of seven children, including two adopted from Haiti and one with special needs

Barbara Lagoa, 52, is among the front runners for Trump's Supreme Court nomination. The Cuban American is pictured here with her three daughters and husband

Barbara Lagoa, 52, is among the front runners for Trump's Supreme Court nomination. The Cuban American is pictured here with her three daughters and husband

Barbara Lagoa, 52, is among the front runners for Trump’s Supreme Court nomination. The Cuban American is pictured here with her three daughters and husband

Amy Coney Barrett 

Mother of seven, Amy Coney Barrett emerges now as a front runner after she was shortlisted for the nomination in 2018, which eventually went to Brett Kavanaugh. Trump called the federal appellate court judge ‘very highly respected’ when questioned about her Saturday. 

Born in New Orleans in 1972, she was the first and only woman to occupy an Indiana seat on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. 

With five biological and two adopted children, friends say she is a devoted mother. With just an hour to go until she was voted into the 7th District Court of Appeals by the U.S. Senate in 2017, Barrett was outside trick-or-treating with her kids.

Her youngest biological child has Down Syndrome.  

In 2017, her affiliation to the small, tightly knit Christian group called People of Praise caused concern while she was a nominee for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. 

The group’s ultra-conservative religious tenets helped spur author Margaret Atwood to publish The Handmaid’s Tale, a story about a religious takeover of the U.S. government which is now a hit TV show, according to a 1986 interview with the writer. 

Members of the group swear a lifelong oath of loyalty, called a covenant, to one another. They are also assigned and held accountable to a personal adviser, known until recently as a ‘head’ for men and a ‘handmaid’ for women.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a law professor at Notre Dame University who is among the favorites to be Trump's Supreme Court pick

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a law professor at Notre Dame University who is among the favorites to be Trump's Supreme Court pick

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a law professor at Notre Dame University who is among the favorites to be Trump’s Supreme Court pick

People of Praise is a Christian group that believe in speaking in tongues and prophecy

People of Praise is a Christian group that believe in speaking in tongues and prophecy

People of Praise is a Christian group that believe in speaking in tongues and prophecy

Senior figures: Amy Coney Barrett's parents Linda Coney, 70, and Michael, 72, are both part of People of Praise, with her mom having previously been a 'handmaid'

Senior figures: Amy Coney Barrett's parents Linda Coney, 70, and Michael, 72, are both part of People of Praise, with her mom having previously been a 'handmaid'

Senior figures: Amy Coney Barrett’s parents Linda Coney, 70, and Michael, 72, are both part of People of Praise, with her mom having previously been a ‘handmaid’

Coney Barrett has five sisters, of whom three are known to be closely involved in People of Praise, including Carrie Coney Urbanski, 42, and her husband Matt, 45. Other members of Matt's family are also in People of Praise

Coney Barrett has five sisters, of whom three are known to be closely involved in People of Praise, including Carrie Coney Urbanski, 42, and her husband Matt, 45. Other members of Matt's family are also in People of Praise

Coney Barrett has five sisters, of whom three are known to be closely involved in People of Praise, including Carrie Coney Urbanski, 42, and her husband Matt, 45. Other members of Matt’s family are also in People of Praise

Members are encouraged to confess personal sins, financial information and other sensitive disclosures to these advisors and advisors are allowed to report these admissions to group leadership if necessary, according to an account of one former member. 

The organization itself says that the term ‘handmaid’ was a reference to Jesus’s mother Mary’s description of herself as a ‘handmaid of the Lord.’ They said they recently stopped using the term due to cultural shifts and now use the name ‘women leaders.’ 

The group deems that husbands are the heads of their wives and should take authority over the family. However the heads and handmaids are there to give direction on important decisions, including whom to date or marry, where to live, whether to take a job or buy a home, and how to raise children’.

Unmarried members of the group are placed living with married member couples. Members often look to buy or rent homes near other members. 

They believe in prophecy, speaking in tongues and divine healings. Founded in 1971, it now has an estimated 2,000 members. 

Vivian Coney Orthmann, 34, Amy Coney Barrett's youngest sister, and her husband David Orthmann, are members of People of Praise and live in the Pacific northwest. His family are also members

Vivian Coney Orthmann, 34, Amy Coney Barrett's youngest sister, and her husband David Orthmann, are members of People of Praise and live in the Pacific northwest. His family are also members

Vivian Coney Orthmann, 34, Amy Coney Barrett’s youngest sister, and her husband David Orthmann, are members of People of Praise and live in the Pacific northwest. His family are also members

Michael Coney Jr, 32, the judge's youngest sibling, and his wife Naomi Caneff Coney, 32, were full-time workers for the group

Michael Coney Jr, 32, the judge's youngest sibling, and his wife Naomi Caneff Coney, 32, were full-time workers for the group

Michael Coney Jr, 32, the judge's youngest sibling, and his wife Naomi Caneff Coney, 32, were full-time workers for the group

Michael Coney Jr, 32, the judge's youngest sibling, and his wife Naomi Caneff Coney, 32, were full-time workers for the group

Michael Coney Jr, 32, the judge’s youngest sibling, and his wife Naomi Caneff Coney, 32, were full-time workers for the group

At least 10 members of Barrett’s family, not including their children, also belong to the group. Barrett’s father, Mike Coney, serves on the People of Praise’s powerful 11-member board of governors, described as the group’s ‘highest authority.’ Her mother Linda was also a handmaiden.   

Barrett, pictured, is a concern for liberals for her anti-abortion views

Barrett, pictured, is a concern for liberals for her anti-abortion views

Barrett, pictured, is a concern for liberals for her anti-abortion views

According to legal experts, loyalty oaths such at the one Barrett would have taken to People of Praise could raise legitimate questions about a judicial nominee’s independence and impartiality. 

‘These groups can become so absorbing that it’s difficult for a person to retain individual judgment,’ said Sarah Barringer Gordon, a professor of constitutional law and history at the University of Pennsylvania. 

‘I don’t think it’s discriminatory or hostile to religion to want to learn more’ about her relationship with the group.

Yet a leader of the group claimed that it would hold no influence over Barrett.   

‘If and when members hold political offices, or judicial offices, or administrative offices, we would certainly not tell them how to discharge their responsibilities,’ Craig S. Lent added. 

During her professional career, Barrett spent two decades as a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, from which she holds her bachelor’s and law degrees.

She was named ‘Distinguished Professor of the Year’ three separate years, a title decided by students. 

A former clerk for late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, she was nominated by Trump to serve on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017 and confirmed in a 55-43 vote by the Senate later that year.

At the time, three Democratic senators supported her nomination: Joe Donnelly (Ind.), who subsequently lost his 2018 reelection bid, Tim Kaine (Va.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.), according to The Hill.

She was backed by every GOP senator at the time, but she did not disclose her relationship with People of Praise, which led to later criticism. 

Barrett is well-regarded by the religious right because of this devout faith.

Pictured, Amy Coney Barrett. At least 10 members of Barrett's family, not including their children, also belong to the Christian group named People of Praise

Pictured, Amy Coney Barrett. At least 10 members of Barrett's family, not including their children, also belong to the Christian group named People of Praise

Pictured, Amy Coney Barrett. At least 10 members of Barrett’s family, not including their children, also belong to the Christian group named People of Praise

Yet these beliefs are certain to cause problems with her conformation and stand in opposition to the beliefs of Ginsburg, who she would be replacing. Axios reported in 2019 that Trump told aides he was ‘saving’ Barrett to replace Ginsburg.

Her deep Catholic faith was cited by Democrats as a large disadvantage during her 2017 confirmation hearing for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.

‘If you’re asking whether I take my faith seriously and I’m a faithful Catholic, I am,’ Barrett responded during that hearing, ‘although I would stress that my personal church affiliation or my religious belief would not bear in the discharge of my duties as a judge.’

Republicans now believe that she performed well in her defense during this hearing, leaving her potentially capable of doing the same if facing the Senate Judiciary Committee.

She is a former member of the Notre Dame’s ‘Faculty for Life’ and in 2015 signed a letter to the Catholic Church affirming the ‘teachings of the Church as truth.’

Among those teachings were the ‘value of human life from conception to natural death’ and marriage-family values ‘founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman’.

She has previously written that Supreme Court precedents are not sacrosanct. Liberals have taken these comments as a threat to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide.

Barrett wrote that she agrees ‘with those who say that a justice’s duty is to the Constitution and that it is thus more legitimate for her to enforce her best understanding of the Constitution rather than a precedent she thinks clearly in conflict with it’.

Among the other statements that have cause concern for liberal are her declaration that ObamaCare’s birth control mandate is ‘grave violation of religious freedom.’ 

She has also sided with Trump in immigration. 

In a case from June 2020, IndyStar reports that she was the sole voice on a three-judge panel that supported allowing federal enforcement of Trump’s public charge immigration law in Illinois. 

The law would have prevented immigrants from getting legal residency in the United States if they rely on public benefits like food stamps or housing vouchers.   

She is married to Jesse M. Barrett, a partner at SouthBank Legal in South Bend and former Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana. 

Newly sworn-in Gov. Ron DeSantis stands behind Barbara Lagoa as she speaks after he named her to the Florida Supreme Court in 2019. She could now be a Supreme Court nominee

Newly sworn-in Gov. Ron DeSantis stands behind Barbara Lagoa as she speaks after he named her to the Florida Supreme Court in 2019. She could now be a Supreme Court nominee

Newly sworn-in Gov. Ron DeSantis stands behind Barbara Lagoa as she speaks after he named her to the Florida Supreme Court in 2019. She could now be a Supreme Court nominee

Barbara Lagoa  

A Cuban American who parents fled to the U.S., Lagoa was born in Miami in 1967. She grew up in the largely Cuban American city of Hialeah.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, her parents fled Cuba over five decades ago when Fidel Castro’s Communist dictatorship took over. 

During the 2019 news conference in Miami announcing her appointment to the Florida Supreme Court, she told the crowd that her father had to give up his ‘dream of becoming a lawyer’ because of Castro. 

If nominated to the nation’s high court by Trump and confirmed by the Senate, the mother of three daughters would be the second Latino justice to ever serve.

She served on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for less than a year after being appointed by Trump and confirmed by the Senate on an 80-15 vote

Prior to that she also spent less than a year in her previous position as the first Latina and Cuban American to serve on the Florida Supreme Court.

Lagoa is considered a protégé of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a close Trump ally.

Her position in crucial swing state Florida could help Trump politically.

Joined by her family, Barbara Lagoa, third from left, Governor Ron DeSantis' pick for the Florida Supreme Court in 2019. She is considered a DeSantis protege

Joined by her family, Barbara Lagoa, third from left, Governor Ron DeSantis' pick for the Florida Supreme Court in 2019. She is considered a DeSantis protege

Joined by her family, Barbara Lagoa, third from left, Governor Ron DeSantis’ pick for the Florida Supreme Court in 2019. She is considered a DeSantis protege

Pictured, members of the Florida Supreme Court listen to a speech by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Barbara Lagoa is pictured second from right

Pictured, members of the Florida Supreme Court listen to a speech by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Barbara Lagoa is pictured second from right

Pictured, members of the Florida Supreme Court listen to a speech by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Barbara Lagoa is pictured second from right

Last week, she voted in the majority in a ruling that barred hundreds of thousands of Florida felons who have served their time from voting unless they pay fees and fines owed to the state.

This decision could have a major impact on the presidential race as Florida is often won by a candidate by only razor-thin margins.

‘Florida’s felon re-enfranchisement scheme is constitutional,’ Lagoa wrote in a 20-page concurrence, according to USA Today.

‘It falls to the citizens of the state of Florida and their elected state legislators, not to federal judges, to make any additional changes to it.’

In 2000 Lagoa was one of a dozen mostly pro bono lawyers who represented the Miami family of Elián González, a Cuban citizen who became embroiled in a heated international custody and immigration controversy.

In 2016, while in the Florida Third District Court of Appeal, she wrote an opinion reversing the conviction of Adonis Losada, a former Univision comic actor sentenced to 153 years in prison for collecting child porn. 

She ruled that a Miami-Dade judge erred in not allowing Losada to defend himself at trial. 

That same month she became unpopular with free press advocates when she was one of three judges who allowed a Miami judge to close a courtroom to the public for a key hearing in a high-profile murder case. 

They ruled that publicity surrounding the machete murder of a student in Homestead might unfairly sway jurors at a future trial. 

Lagoa is a graduate of Florida International University and Columbia University Law.

She is is a member of the conservative Federalist Society, which stresses that judges should ‘say what the law is, not what it should be.’

She is married to lawyer Paul C. Huck Jr., and her father-in-law is United States District Judge Paul Huck. 

WHO’S WHO ON TRUMP’S SUPREME COURT SHORTLIST 

REPUBLICAN SENATORS

Ted Cruz, Texas. 49

Josh Hawley, Missouri. 40

Tom Cotton, Arkansas. 43

JUDGES 

Bridget Bade, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. 54

Stuart Kyle Duncan, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. 48

James Ho, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, 47

Gregory Katsas, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. 56

Barbara Lagoa, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. 52

Carlos Muñiz, Supreme Court of Florida. 51

Martha Pacold, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. 41

Peter Phipps, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. 47

Sarah Pitlyk, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. 43

Allison Jones Rushing, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. 38

Lawrence VanDyke, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. 47

CURRENT AND FORMER REPUBLICAN OFFICIALS 

Daniel Cameron, Kentucky Attorney General. 34

Paul Clement, partner with Kirkland & Ellis, former solicitor general. 54

Steven Engel, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. 46

Noel Francisco, former U.S. solicitor general. 51

Christopher Landau, U.S. ambassador to Mexico. 56

Kate Todd, deputy White House counsel. 45

 

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