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Amy Coney Barrett Took Speaking Fees From a Group That Pushed Mississippi's Abortion Ban
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=59481"><span class="small">Michelle Mark, Insider</span></a>   
Wednesday, 19 May 2021 08:34

Mark writes: "The Alliance Defending Freedom has boasted of its efforts to restrict abortions across the country, and took credit for the legislation passed in Mississippi."

Amy Coney Barrett. (photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)
Amy Coney Barrett. (photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)

Amy Coney Barrett Took Speaking Fees From a Group That Pushed Mississippi's Abortion Ban

By Michelle Mark, Insider

19 May 21


hen the Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear a challenge to a Mississippi law banning most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, the news prompted renewed speculation about whether the court's conservative majority will overturn the precedent set by Roe v. Wade.

That speculation in part stems from the newest justice to join the bench, Amy Coney Barrett, having won near-universal praise from anti-abortion groups, including one that has claimed credit for the Mississippi law.

Judd Legum's Popular Information newsletter on Tuesday resurfaced Barrett's "ties to the group that wrote Mississippi's abortion ban," the Alliance Defending Freedom. The Christian legal advocacy group opposes abortion and same-sex marriage, and backs so-called "bathroom bills" that restrict transgender people's access to sex-segregated facilities.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has called the ADF an anti-LGBTQ hate group, though Barrett has previously noted that the SPLC's classification has been "a matter of public controversy."

Barrett spoke on five occasions at the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, a summer program run by the ADF, since 2011, according to tax filings reported by The Washington Post. One financial disclosure form from Barrett's 2017 Senate confirmation to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals showed she had received two $2,100 payments from ADF in 2015 and 2016.

The ADF has boasted of its efforts to restrict abortions across the country, and took credit for the legislation passed in Mississippi.

"I am happy to say the first 15-week limitation based on our model language was just introduced in the state of Mississippi this week," ADF's senior counsel, Denise Burke, said in 2018, according to the Jackson Free Press.

The group also congratulated Barrett when she was confirmed to the Supreme Court last year and expressed optimism that she would issue rulings favorable to them. The group issued a similar statement in 2018 when Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed.

"We are hopeful that she with other justices will uphold Americans' fundamental freedoms, including free speech, religious freedom, parental rights, and the right to life from conception to natural death," ADF President and CEO Michael Farris said in a statement.

Barrett distanced herself from the group when Senate Democrats questioned her both in 2017 and 2020 about the speeches to the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, saying she hadn't immediately been aware that the program was run by ADF.

"I don't feel like affiliation with a group commits me to all of that group's policy positions," she told then-Sen. Al Franken in 2017.

Justices don't typically recuse themselves over speaking engagements

Louis Virelli III, a constitutional law expert at Stetson University and author of a book about Supreme Court recusals, told Insider there was almost no chance Barrett would recuse herself from the abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, over the past speaking engagements.

"Justices regularly speak to groups like this - to groups that might have an interest in a case before the court," Virelli said. "I can't think of a case where simply having spoken to a group who then has an interest in a case before the court would trigger recusal."

The matter would be different if Barrett had spoken to the group specifically about Mississippi's Gestational Age Act, the law at issue in the upcoming case, Virelli said. But Barrett spoke to Blackstone about the judicial philosophy of originalism, not a specific abortion statute, according to a 24-page slideshow and four-page presentation handout she submitted to the Senate.

Virelli said justices do commonly recuse themselves from cases when there's a clear-cut financial conflict, such as stock ownership, or from cases they worked on before joining the Supreme Court.

Justice Elena Kagan, for instance, recused herself from more than 20 cases in her first year on the bench because she had worked on those cases during her previous role as US solicitor general.

If Democrats do push Barrett to recuse herself from the abortion case due to a conflict of interest, it wouldn't be the first time.

Just last month, Barrett ignored calls from Democrats to recuse herself from two cases involving the conservative Americans for Prosperity Foundation, run by David and Charles Koch. The group reportedly spent at least $1 million on ads advocating for Barrett's confirmation to the Supreme Court. your social media marketing partner