First blind SCOTUS clerk: Barrett’s ‘brilliance is matched only by her compassion’

Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett had helped Laura Wolk succeed at law school, despite her disability.
Tue Oct 20, 2020 - 9:13 am EST
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Laura Wolk C-SPAN / YouTube

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 20, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Laura Wolk, the nation’s first blind law clerk at the Supreme Court, praised SCOTUS nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett for her personal investment as a professor at the University of Notre Dame, making sure Wolk was able to succeed. Barrett’s “brilliance is matched only by her compassion, and her integrity is unassailable,” Wolk said during the confirmation hearings.

Before becoming a law clerk, Wolk studied law at Notre Dame, where she had requested from the university assistance technology to keep up with sighted students and to help her navigate law school.

Because of “bureaucratic glitches” preventing her from getting the requested technology, Wolk quickly started falling behind. A few weeks into law school, Wolk decided to approach her professor, Amy Coney Barrett. She exuded warmth, so Wolk felt hopeful about coming to her with her concerns.

In an essay titled What I Learned from Amy Coney Barett, Wolk recalled, “Although I had known her for only two weeks, I felt confident that this poised, articulate woman would not dismiss my concerns and would counsel me on how to get the university to procure the needed assistive technology as quickly as possible.”

According to Wolk’s testimony last Thursday, Barrett listened to her intently and then made it her personal responsibility to get to the bottom of the problem. Wolk had kept low expectations and was only anticipating getting directed to further channels or resources that would delay her with more bureaucracy. But Barrett surprised her.

“Judge Barrett did something altogether different,” Wolk explained. “She silently listened with deep attention as I explained my situation, giving me the freedom to let my guard down and come apart.”

“I poured out all my concerns, not just about technology and my worries about failing classes, but all the burdens I currently carried as a disabled woman navigating a brand-new environment,” she continued.

“When I finished, Judge Barrett leaned forward and looked at my intently. ‘Laura,’ she said with the same measured conviction that we have seen displayed throughout her entire nomination process, ‘this is no longer your problem. It’s my problem.”

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“I can’t capture adequately the relief that washed over me at her words,” Wolk said. “Anyone who has interacted with her knows that she is a woman of her word. She means what she says and she says what she means. When she promised to advocate for me, she commanded my trust.”

To this day, Wolk does not know exactly what Barrett did to solve her problem — which further attests to Barrett’s humility, Wolk believes. The technology was made available to her shortly afterwards. As a result, Wolk credits Barrett for being partly responsible for her success and for being the first blind law clerk at the Supreme Court, working for Justice Clarence Thomas.

“It is now my immense privilege to appear before you in support of Judge Barrett's nomination to that same great institution,” Wolk explained.

“Should you confirm Amy Barret, the country will receive something far greater than simply an unparalleled legal mind. It will gain the service of one of the kindest individuals I have ever known. Her brilliance is matched only by her compassion, and her integrity is unassailable.”

According to Wolk, her story is “hardly unique. Those who have had the benefit of knowing Amy Coney Barrett understand that she possesses a boundless font of energy and a radical sense of love that she is ever ready to pour out upon those lucky enough to call her teacher, boss, family, and friend.”

“Judge Barrett will serve this country with distinction,” Wolk is convinced, “not only because of her intellectual prowess, but also because of her ability to treat everyone as an equal deserving of complete respect.”

“As a beneficiary of both of these qualities I urge you to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court of the United States,” she concluded.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination on Thursday at 1 pm ET. The full Senate will then debate the nomination, expecting to hold a final vote next Monday.

  amy coney barrett, confirmation hearings, laura wolk, scotus, supreme court

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