Durbin Asks Barrett, 'Have You Seen the George Floyd Video?'

By Susan Jones | October 13, 2020 | 11:58am EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Slavery, racism and the George Floyd video came up at Tuesday's Senate confirmation hearing for Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

In response to a question from Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin, Barrett said she did see the Floyd video, and she explained her reaction in personal terms:

Senator, as you might imagine, given that I have two black children, that was very, very personal for my family. Jesse was with the boys on a camping trip out in South Dakota, so I was there and my 17-year-old daughter Vivienne who was adopted from Haiti -- all of this was erupting, it was very difficult for her. We wept together in my room, and then it was also difficult for my daughter Julia, who is 10, and I had to try to explain some of this to them.

I mean, my children, to this point in their lives have had the benefit of growing up in a cocoon where they have not yet experienced hatred or violence, and for Vivienne to understand that there would be a risk to her brother, to the son she might have one day, of that kind of brutality has been an ongoing conversation. And it's a difficult one for us, like it is for Americans all over the country.

Durbin then asked Barrett to "reflect on the history of this country."

"Where are we today when it comes to the issue of race?" Durbin asked. "Some argue it's fine -- everything's fine. And we don't even have to teach children about the history of slavery or discrimination. Others say there's implicit bias in so many aspects of American life that we have to be very candid about and address. Others go further and say no, it's systemic racism, it's built into America and we have to be much more pointed in our addressing. How do you feel?"

“So, I think it is an entirely uncontroversial and obvious statement, that we just talked about the George Floyd video, that racism persists in our country,” Barrett responded:

As to putting my finger on the nature of the problem, you know, whether as you say it's just outright or systemic racism or how to tackle the issue of making it better, those things are policy questions -- they're hotly contested policy questions -- that have been in the news and discussed all summer.

So while, you know, as I did share my personal experience, you know, happy to discuss the reaction our family had to the George Floyd video – giving broader statements or making, you know, broader diagnoses about the problem of racism is kind of beyond what I'm capable of doing as a judge.

At the end of his questioning, Durbin made the point that "people see things differently based on their backgrounds and experience, and it's simplistic to think it's a robotic performance with a judge on the bench -- they go back and read the Constitution and rule. It is not that simple, and you've acknowledged it by saying even originalists disagree with each other."

Durbin said that's the case with all of the justices: "They bring something to it that is just not generic, it's individual. And that's the point I'm making. There's an individualism to this -- the class of originalists on the Supreme Court aren't all going to vote the same on every case. I think merely saying ‘originalism’ does not absolve you or us from observing the obvious. There are going to be differences."

Judge Barrett told Durbin, "Law is hard, and it's complicated, and people who approach it from different jurisprudential perspectives will sometimes reach different results. I mean, I think that's hard to deny, because as you say, every vote from the Supreme Court isn't unanimous and sometimes it is.

“But cases don't get to the Supreme Court unless the circuits disagree among themselves. So it's hard. But to the extent, Senator Durbin, that you're suggesting that I have some sort of agenda on felon voting rights or guns or campaign finance or anything else, I can assure you and whole committee, I do not."

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