And so President Donald Trump has got what he wanted. On Monday, Amy Coney Barrett officially joined the U.S. Supreme court, after what has been labeled a socially-distanced private ceremony where Chief Justice John Roberts administered her second judicial oath.
In the ceremony, Coney Barrett pledged to “administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich” and to “faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me.”
Of course, there is a crucial debate about how impartial Justice Barrett will be on a host of issues from healthcare to climate change, especially as it turns out that Barrett’s father used to work for oil giant Shell as a lawyer.
According to media reports, Coney Barrett has already admitted that she has a potential conflict of interest regarding her father’s position within Shell.
What makes this a matter of huge public interest is that now that she is on the Supreme Court, Coney Barrett “is poised to make critical rulings on whether oil and gas companies will be held accountable for the effects of the climate crisis,” reports the Guardian.
There is now growing pressure for Barrett to recuse herself of any cases concerning Shell due to her father’s position.
Writing two years ago, her father acknowledged that “most of my legal career was spent as an attorney with Shell in New Orleans.” He recalled how “early in my career I was promoted and transferred to Shell’s main office in Houston. From a career perspective it was fantastic.” He described “the salary increase and the potential for further management promotions” being “a dream.”
So the father of the newest judge of the Supreme Court believes that Shell was a “dream” job and “fantastic” career.
And now, Barrett is supposedly and impartially meant to rule on whether the company her father served for many years, is essentially a climate criminal, hurtling us towards a climate catastrophe.
Less than two weeks before her confirmation hearings, the Daily Poster noted that the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal by Royal Dutch Shell and other oil giants that are being sued by cities and states for the climate damage those companies created. Shell and the others are asking justices to allow the case to be heard in federal court.”
As Dharna Noor from Earther added, “Barrett could also decide the future of the groundbreaking youth climate suit Juliana v. U.S., which if successful, could push the federal government to take real action to curb oil and gas production and draw down emissions.”
But it gets worse. Barrett’s father “was for over twenty years an active member of The American Petroleum Institute Subcommittee of Exploration and Production Law and served twice as its Chairman,” according to his own biographical records.
So you have yet another conflict of interest. As David Sirota from Jacobin magazine explains, “Amy Coney Barrett’s father helped lead the American Petroleum Institute for 20 years — the same lobbying group that is right now pushing Supreme Court justices to limit states’ power to stop fossil fuel projects.”
The API has also spearheaded the oil industry’s climate disinformation campaign for decades, at exactly the same time her father was an influential member.
Barrett is following in her father’s denial footsteps. So far, Barrett has expressed sentiments on climate change that has scientists deeply worried. At her confirmation hearing, Barrett was asked about her views on climate change and took the skeptical line that she could not comment because she was not a scientist.
She also refused to accept the science and said that climate change was a “very contentious matter of public debate” and was “controversial” despite the science being settled for decades.
Barrett is said to come from a close family. Her conservative views and embedded climate denial are worrying enough, before the blatant conflict of interest she has with her father’s old position in Shell. The oil giant’s dirty shadow now stains the Court. Amy Coney Barrett must recuse herself from any climate legislation. Anything less will make a mockery of the Supreme Court and American Justice.