Issues & Insights

Judge Amy Coney Barrett: A Friend

With my background, it was highly unlikely that I would ever befriend someone who would be nominated by the president to serve on the Supreme Court of our country. I grew up in the Detroit area, doing janitorial work with my family after school and, at a very young age, cleaning a trucking company on weekends to make ends meet for our household.

But since my friend has been nominated for the Supreme Court, it is important for the public to know about Amy Coney Barrett from the perspective of someone who grew up as I did, as many Americans do. 

With the help of many, I ended up attending Notre Dame Law School. That is where I met Amy. We were classmates and began a friendship that continues today. 

From the start, I admired Amy’s intellectual firepower, work ethic, and thoughtfulness. Whenever she spoke in class, I often learned more from Amy than from the professor. I would take notes on what she had to say.  I had to frequently ask myself why I had not originated the clear, understandable ideas that she so artfully put forth with such regularity; she was thinking on another level at all times and served as a teacher by her example.

The classroom is not the only place where I have learned from Amy. I have been blessed to be a not-so-infrequent house guest of the Barrett family over many years of friendship. I know Amy, her loving husband Jesse, and their beautiful children (all seven of them).  I have been with Amy and Jesse at difficult times, including when their soon-to-be adopted children were suffering in Haiti from lack of medical attention and the Barretts were urgently pursuing the adoption approval process to bring them to their new American home. The tears and agonizing pain of a hopeful mother-to-be worried for the health and welfare of children in an orphanage in a developing nation were difficult to witness. Yet she remained optimistic and steadfast in the pursuit of providing a loving home for them. 

Like most families, the Barrett kids are involved in a number of outside activities that range from soccer, track, and powerlifting to speech therapy for their son with developmental needs. I have watched Amy repeatedly rise long before dawn, pack lunches, prepare to hear oral arguments, go for a run, jump in the seasoned minivan, drive through the snow to her chambers in Chicago to handle a case, and return home that evening to read to her children, do homework, prepare meals with Jesse, handle the customary misbehavior of kids, and ready them for bed with a hug, a kiss, and a prayer, and then, not nearly done yet, start her own prep for the next day’s work as a federal judge with the same level of focus as she brought to bear when she was a first-year law student. Only the impacts of her role are bigger now. 

I have witnessed Amy manage her love of being a spouse, mother, friend, academic, judge and citizen in a way that only a person with her grace and strength can do.

The Supreme Court and the justices can seem to be operating in a space that is so exclusive as to almost be abstract and unobtainable. But being a part of the Barrett household too many times to count has changed that perception for a guy like me, and understanding her caring humanity may help others also to see that Amy can befriend anyone.

Bill Anaya graduated from Notre Dame Law School in 1997 and was a classmate of Judge Barrett.

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