U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett returns to ND Law to teach intensive course on statutory interpretation

Author: Denise Wager

Barrett 2021 Officialportrait

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a Notre Dame Law School alumna and longtime faculty member, returned to campus at the beginning of the fall semester to teach an intensive course to 15 third-year law students.

“As one of the most gifted law teachers in our history, we are deeply honored that Justice Barrett continues to train Notre Dame Law students,” said G. Marcus Cole, the Joseph A. Matson Dean and Professor of Law at Notre Dame Law School.

The one-week course explored and critically evaluated leading contemporary approaches to statutory interpretation, and included topics on purposive interpretation, dynamic statutory interpretation, textualism, canons of construction, and the use of legislative history. With experience as both a legal scholar, and a judge and justice, students agree that Justice Barrett teaches in a way that truly brings statutory interpretation to life.

“Justice Barrett pushed us to challenge our preconceived beliefs and led the class in lively discussions surrounding textualism, purposivism, Congressional intent, and the role that legislative history should play in interpreting the law,” said third-year law student Christian Palacios.

Recognizing the role statutory interpretation plays in the American legal system and the different theories of how lawyers and judges interpret written law, students were encouraged to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each.

Third-year law student Bridget Bush said, “We each had the opportunity to state our views on a case and raise any questions or concerns we had as to the approach taken. Having the opportunity to assert my position, articulate my reasoning, and then defend my rationale before a sitting Supreme Court justice was an experience I will never forget. It was the highlight of my law school experience, and a week I will forever cherish."

Palacios added, “I chose to attend Notre Dame to expose myself to ideas that were dissimilar to my own, and become a well-rounded legal thinker. This class played a substantial role in accomplishing that goal and I'm grateful for the opportunity to have taken it.”

Justice Barrett is a 1997 graduate of Notre Dame Law School and served as a professor of law for several years. In 2017, she was appointed as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. She remained a Notre Dame Law School faculty member and continued to teach part time after her judicial appointment. She was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court in October 2020.