‘A woman of her word’: Disabled law clerk’s moving account of how ACB gave her a ‘gift of immeasurable value’

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In testimony before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney Laura Wolk, the first blind woman to clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court, spoke movingly and emphatically in support of her mentor, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, as a person of unassailable integrity with a deep “generosity of spirit” that goes well beyond her reputation as a respected legal scholar.

Wolk first encountered Barrett as a first-year law student at Notre Dame and described Barrett as “one of the kindest individuals I have ever known.” Wolk recalled that she arrived on campus to find that the university bureaucracy had failed to provide her with the promised assistive technology to enable her to keep with the demanding law school course work. Wolk brought her concerns to then-Professor Barrett.

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

“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, I do not know what Judge Barrett did to solve my problem, itself a testament to her humility.

“All I know is that the technology arrived promptly which, in turn, allowed me to excel and to place me in a position that  would eventually allow me to apply for a clerkship on the Supreme Court…she has remained a constant source of strength, encouragement, and solace as I have pursued professional and personal opportunities with no roadmap to guide me…”


“Through her mentorship, she has given me a gift of immeasurable value: The ability to live an abundant life with the potential to break down barriers so that I can leave this world a better place than I found it,” Wolk concluded.

Wolk clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas in 2019, a position that she in part attributes to Judge Barrett’s unwavering support. Clerkships at the federal level, moreover, are very competitive, and as such, hard to get, and usually a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Yet she has also clerked at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and the Third Circuit. Law clerks assist judges with legal research and in the drafting of decisions in cases.

Laura Wolk’s written statement in support of Judge Barrett’s confirmation, which expands upon her oral testimony, is posted here.

Separately, a liberal Harvard law professor who testified before the U.S. House of Representatives in favor of the impeachment of President Trump, has emphatically endorsed Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination. As Supreme Court clerks (for Justices Souter and Scalia, respectively), Prof. Noah Feldman and Barrett were co-workers in the 1998-1999 term, he recalled in a September 26, 2020, opinion piece for Bloomberg:

“I disagree with much of [Barrett’s] judicial philosophy and expect to disagree with many, maybe even most of her future votes and opinions. Yet despite this disagreement, I know her to be a brilliant and conscientious lawyer who will analyze and decide cases in good faith, applying the jurisprudential principles to which she is committed. Those are the basic criteria for being a good justice. Barrett meets and exceeds them…To add to her merits, Barrett is a sincere, lovely person.”

Under the current timeline, and barring issues such as Democrat delaying tactics, the Judiciary Committee under Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) plans to vote on the nomination on October 22 at 1 p.m., after which it will go to the full Senate for an up-or-down vote on the lifetime appointment to the high court. Judge Barrett currently sits on the Chicago-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.


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