Dominican_Amy_Coney_Barrett

Amy Coney Barrett, center, alumna of the year for St. Mary's Dominican High School in New Orleans, is seen with Kathleen McGlone ’98, left, outgoing president of the Dominican Alumnae Association; and Dominican President Cynthia A. Thomas, right.

A New Orleans native is among the two dozen people on President Donald Trump’s list to replace Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, and perhaps on a shorter list than that.

Amy Coney Barrett, who joined the federal judiciary last fall as a judge on the Chicago-based 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, is considered one of the top contenders to fill a critical seat on the court. 

The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday that Barrett is one of "two leading candidates" for the appointment along with veteran Washington, D.C., appellate Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

Kennedy announced Wednesday that he is retiring. 

Barrett was born in New Orleans in 1972 and graduated from St. Mary’s Dominican High School before getting an undergraduate degree at Rhodes College in Memphis and a law degree from the University of Notre Dame.

She clerked for conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in 2016, in the 1990s and spent several years in private practice before she moved on to teaching at Notre Dame Law School.

Trump nominated her to the 7th Circuit bench last spring, and the Senate confirmed her 55-43 in the fall.

Barrett’s name appeared on a list of 25 people Trump said he is considering after Kennedy’s announcement that he plans to retire.

Trump told reporters on Friday that he had narrowed the list down to about five candidates — including two women — and planned to announce his choice on July 9.

That timeline means Kennedy’s replacement could be confirmed by the U.S. Senate before this fall’s midterm elections, although Democrats are likely to oppose the nomination strenuously.

There has been only one Supreme Court justice from Louisiana: Edward Douglass White, who served from 1894 to 1921, first as an associate justice and then as chief justice after 1910. During that time, White sided with a nearly unanimous court in the famous 1896 case of Plessy v. Ferguson, which entrenched racial segregation in the South for more than half a century.

Filling Kennedy’s seat potentially gives Trump the opportunity to push the court further to the right for a generation. Though he typically aligned himself with the four other Republican-appointed justices, Kennedy acted as the swing vote on several blockbuster cases.

He wrote the majority opinion in the case that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. And while he supported restrictions on abortion, he was seen as a likely fifth vote to preserve Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that prevents states from banning the procedure outright.

Abortion rights are expected to be front and center in the coming battle over who will be Kennedy's successor, and the issue also figured prominently in Barrett's confirmation hearing for the appeals court last year. 

Barrett has written that the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade was “erroneous,” and her nomination was opposed by pro-abortion rights groups. She also came under fire during her confirmation hearing from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., over whether she would be able to set aside her Catholic beliefs in interpreting the law.

That hearing earned Barrett fans on the right, at least some of whom see her as an ideal justice to deliver a ruling against abortion rights.

Conservative columnist Ramesh Ponuru called on Trump to nominate Barrett in a column for Bloomberg News on Thursday. In addition to counting her faith and relative youth as positives for a lifetime appointment, Ponuru said the main reason to favor her is that she’s a woman, nothing that all three women on the court today are in the liberal wing. 

“If Roe v. Wade is ever overturned — as I certainly hope it will be, as it is an unjust decision with no plausible basis in the Constitution — it would be better if it were not done by only male justices, with every female justice in dissent,” he wrote.

Trump said Friday he won't be asking the potential nominees about their thoughts on abortion rights, saying, "I think it's inappropriate to discuss."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.​