Justice Amy Coney Barrett once climbed priest's fence in high heels to escape news cameras after church

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Handmaid vs. Historic: How the media reacted to Supreme Court nominees Amy Coney Barrett and Ketanji Brown Jackson

MSNBC, CNN, ABC, CBS and other outlets had sharply different reactions to the Supreme Court nominations of Amy Coney Barrett and Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett recounted an alleged pursuit by journalists that forced her to hop a church fence during the time of her nomination and hearing for the position.

Barrett told the story onstage during an interview with the Reagan Library. The event consisted of a loose conversation with Barrett on a wide range of topics related to her life and work before and after her appointment to the Supreme Court. Asked about the story by the event host, Barrett explained the difficulty of going out in public when the nation’s eyes were fixed on her possible position on the court.

“Usually the media trucks would show up around 8. It was a Sunday morning, and I was going to head to mass,” Barrett said. “So I left the house before I thought they were going to come. One showed up, and I led them on a chase through the neighborhood because I really didn’t want to be followed.”

“I was very proud of myself because I managed to shake them. I was confident. I parked the car at our church, and when I went to go walk in, I saw one of the suburbans that I recognized from outside the house coming the other way,” she continued.

Barrett told the audience that she did not want to be photographed by the press coming out of the church.

“I made an exit out of a side door before it was over that I had never exited through before – and it turned out there was a reason for that. It didn’t actually exit out. It rather went into the priest’s private residence and the yard,” Barrett continued. “And so I’m standing there, I’m in the yard and there’s a fence and so I faced a choice – I could either hop the fence or I could go back out the front and give them the picture. So I decided in my high heels to climb the fence. So gracefully. And when I dropped down on the other side I see our associate pastor who says ‘Amy, what are you doing in our vegetable garden?'”

Barrett’s Catholic faith was a central issue in her confirmation as a Supreme Court justice. Critics speculated that her religious convictions would exert undue influence over her legal decision-making. 

But a high court feared by liberals and celebrated by conservatives hasn’t delivered as expected, leaving some on the right to feel let down. 

During the 2021 Supreme Court session, some key rulings didn’t sit well with conservatives. The high court didn’t scuttle the Affordable Care Act, better known to many Americans as Obamacare, which has been a longtime goal GOP goal. The court also ruled in favor of a transgender student who didn’t want to use the school bathroom assigned to his sex at birth, a lighting rod issue among many conservatives.

And while the court ruled that a Catholic social services agency in Philadelphia could defy city rules by refusing to work with same-sex couples who applied for foster children, there was disappointment in the narrow focus of the opinion. 

Following the ruling, three conservative Supreme Court justices – Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch – seemingly criticized Barrett and Kavanaugh for being too timid.

The court also declined in 2021 to take up an appeal from a florist in Washington state who refused to make a floral arrangement for a same-sex couple due to religious concerns over same-sex marriages.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson dodged questions about court-packing from senators saying she’d follow the lead of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett and not wade into policy matters during her confirmation hearings before the Senate.

An unidentified pro-choice protester is removed by security as she heckles U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett as she meets with Board of Trustees Chairman Frederick J. Ryan, Jr., at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Foundation in Simi Valley, Calif., Monday, April 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
(AP)

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., prefaced a question to Jackson about court-packing by reading a quote from 2020 when Barrett declined to answer questions on controversial public policy matters.

“I will not express a view on a matter of public policy, especially one that is politically controversial because that is inconsistent with the judicial role,” Barrett said in 2020, according to Durbin. 

“I agree with Justice Barrett,” Jackson then told Durbin when he asked her about court-packing during her Tuesday confirmation hearing, “in her response to that question when she was asked before this committee. … Judges should not be speaking into political issues and certainly not a nominee for a position on the Supreme Court.”

Fox News’s Justin Steinhauser and Marisa Schultz contributed to this report.

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