NEWS

Missouri Attorney General’s Office Defends Justice Barrett in Response to Satanic Temple’s Motion to Disqualify

Nov 10, 2020, 15:05 PM by AG Schmitt
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt today filed a response in Judy Doe v. Michael L. Parson, defending Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s faith after it was called into question by a member of the Satanic Temple. Judy Doe, a member of the Satanic Temple, filed a motion to disqualify Justice Barrett last week.

Read the Missouri Attorney General’s response pleading here: https://ago.mo.gov/docs/default-source/press-releases/2020-11-09---response-to-motion-to-disqualify-justice-barrett---final-with-tables.pdf?sfvrsn=37b41cf0_2.

“Religious freedom is a bedrock principle of our nation. These calls for disqualification of Justice Barrett based on her faith are disappointing, but unsurprising. Since her nomination and throughout the confirmation, Justice Barrett’s faith was used as a political cudgel. As I said throughout the confirmation process, Justice Barrett is a legal trailblazer and a skilled jurist, and, as we note in our motion, her faith will enrich, not diminish, her judicial service on the Supreme Court,” said Attorney General Schmitt. 

In its second paragraph, the pleading argues, “Petitioner accuses Justice Barrett of creating an appearance of impropriety by 'openly and publicly embracing ... Catholic dogma.’ Petitioner’s argument thus echoes the worst of the hostile public rhetoric and anti-religious animus opposing Justice Barrett’s faith and judicial service. This Court should reject it.”

The pleading, which was filed last night, continues, “personal views on policy questions—however strong or deeply felt—do not provide a basis for recusal of a Justice,” and notes that Section 455(a) sets a high bar or threshold for recusal of a justice. Additionally, the motion alleges that, “Petitioner’s allegations do not meet this ‘high threshold.’”

The pleading then details, “As then-Justice Rehnquist noted in Laird, this Court’s Justices have regularly participated in cases where the Justices may have harbored strong personal views on the underlying policy questions.” To illustrate that point, the motion provides several examples:

    • In 1941, Justice Black did not recuse himself in the case United States v. Darby, which upheld the constitutionality of the Fair Labor Standards Act, despite Black’s role as one of the chief drafters of that legislation in the Senate;
    • Also in 1941, Justice Frankfurter did not recuse himself in United States v. Hutcheson, which sought to interpret the scope of the Norris-LaGuardia Act, despite Frankfurter’s role in drafting the legislation;
    • In 1950, Justice Jackson did not recuse himself in McGrath v. Kristensen, which raised the same issue he had decided as the Attorney General;
    • And more. 

The pleading continues, “Furthermore, Justice Barrett’s public statements opposing abortion and discussing Catholic doctrine before she assumed judicial office add nothing to Petitioner’s argument. Petitioner does not identify any statement made by Justice Barrett since she joined this Court to support her recusal motion. Instead, Petitioner relies entirely on statements that Justice Barrett made before she held any judicial office.”

In closing, the pleading argues, “In essence, Petitioner contends that any Justice with strong personal or religious views on abortion cannot participate in a case related to abortion… Every Justice undoubtedly has strong personal views on many policy issues—none is ‘a complete tabula rasa’… To require routine recusals of members of this Court in innumerable cases would undermine the Court’s ability to function.”

Petitioner’s lawsuit challenges Missouri’s informed consent law, including a 72-hour waiting period and providing informational materials before an abortion is performed. Both the district court and the Eighth Circuit rejected Petitioner’s claims and upheld Missouri’s law.

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