SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
We are expecting President Trump to announce Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court this afternoon. Judge Barrett sits on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, although she is in Indiana, and served as a clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia. She, of course, would fill the vacancy left by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose life and career were honored at the court in the capital this week and who will be buried next week at Arlington National Cemetery.
Let's now welcome Michael McConnell, a Stanford University law professor and former federal appeals court judge. Thanks very much for being with us, sir.
MICHAEL MCCONNELL: It's a pleasure.
SIMON: I gather you know Amy Coney Barrett. What's your estimation on her apparent nomination, what kind of justice she might be?
MCCONNELL: Well, I do. She was a professor at Notre Dame Law School for about 15 years. And in that capacity, I knew her fairly well. She is - we're not personal friends, but I'm an admirer of both her academic work and her performance on the 7th Circuit. She's, I think, a completely unsurprising nominee. Even her opponents recognize that she is extremely qualified, highly intelligent, hardworking.
What her personal friends know is what a fantastically warm, kind, considerate human being she is. And she's - I think she'll be an inspiration, especially to working mothers, like my two daughters, because she has seven children, including two adopted children from Haiti, one right in the wake of the terrible earthquake.
And almost everybody who knows Amy has a story about just how she is so kind and does just considerate things in ways that no one would ever know about - not publicly - but just - and as a wonderful, warm human being.
SIMON: Let me ask about some of the public stuff, though, because you're a former U.S. appeals court judge. And I wonder if you've taken note of any particular rulings that she's had the chance to make in her time on the bench.
MCCONNELL: Well, in not quite three years as an appellate judge, she's written a hundred opinions, which that in itself is pretty impressive. That's - and they are - and I've not read all of them, but I've read quite a few of them, and they are consistently of a kind of restrained, very lawyerly fashion. She clerked for Justice Scalia, who was a brilliant writer. She doesn't write like Scalia. You know, for better or worse, her opinions are not very rhetorical. They are rigorous. They are much more low-key than that. And, you know, they are just - they're consistently conservative, but mainstream conservative. I don't think - there's not an extremist bone in her body.
SIMON: Does she have opinions that might surprise some of her supporters every now and then?
MCCONNELL: Every now and then - of course, no one really knows where any judge is going to come out...
MCCONNELL: ...On every issue.
SIMON: And maybe we should remind ourselves calling someone a conservative jurist doesn't mean they will always vote a certain way, right?
MCCONNELL: That's right. And the modern legal conservative movement is a little different from conservative politics because the conservative legal movement is really mostly about having a more restrained role for judges - that they ought to read the Constitution modestly, with humility, you know, not reading their own preferences into it. And that generally means leaving legislatures and the Congress to make most democratic choices rather than having the court be like a super legislature.
SIMON: Stanford law professor Michael McConnell. Thanks so much for being with us, sir.
MCCONNELL: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.