Today, CPR joined more than 50 other national, state, and local disability advocacy organizations in a letter sent to Senate leadership and Senate Judiciary committee leadership in opposition to the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court to fill the seat left open by the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Justice Ginsburg was a strong advocate for people with disabilities and author of the majority opinion in Olmstead v. L.C., which affirmed that people with disabilities have a civil right to live, work and participate in their communities and found that unjustified segregation of people with disabilities is a type of discrimination prohibited by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Her replacement should be one that furthers, rather than damages, her legacy.
Judge Barrett’s record raises significant concerns for the disability community. Of particular note, she has written that she views the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which provides critical protections for people with preexisting conditions and has drastically improved access to and quality of care for millions of people with disabilities, as unconstitutional. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in a case challenging the law, California v. Texas, on November 10, and the Senate’s currently extremely expedited schedule to confirm Judge Barrett means she would participate in that argument. CPR, along with 18 other national disability rights organizations, filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court in that case, defending the ACA and explaining its importance to disabled people.
In her current role as a judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, she also recently dissented from an opinion that determined that the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) public charge rule “inescapab[ly] . . . penalizes disabled persons in contravention of the Rehabilitation Act.” The public charge rule puts in place a new test for people who are applying for visas or green cards. It looks at people’s health, including whether they have a disability, and whether they have used or might one day use public benefits, including Medicaid-funded home and community-based services on which many people with disabilities rely. CPR and other disability organizations filed an amicus brief in the case, detailing the discrimination disabled immigrants may face as a result of the rule. Litigation is likely to make its way to the Supreme Court shortly.
Despite her concerning record, Judge Barrett’s nomination process has been extraordinarily rushed. A nomination that, if confirmed, would result in a lifetime appointment, should be considered carefully and given appropriate scrutiny. The speed with which this process has moved is a disservice to the institution of the Supreme Court and is particularly concerning given the Senate’s inability to pass desperately need coronavirus relief during a pandemic that has killed over 200,000 people in the US.