48-year-old Amy Coney Barrett has been selected by US president Donald Trump to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, paving the way for what promises to be a contentious confirmation hearing in the Senate just weeks before the US presidential election.
Ms Barrett, who was previously appointed to the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago by Mr Trump in 2017, will become the fifth woman appointed to the court in history if she is approved as expected by the Republican-led senate.
Announcing his choice at a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, Mr Trump described Ms Coney Barrett as “one of our nation’s most brilliant and gifted legal minds…a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials and unyielding loyalty to the constitution.”
“I stand before you today to fulfil one of my highest and important duties under the United States constitution - the nomination of the Supreme Court justice,” he said at a ceremony in the White House.
Noting that he had now appointed three Supreme Court justices, he said it was “a very proud moment indeed.”
Ms Barrett, a native of Louisiana is a mother of seven, including two children she adopted from Haiti. She clerked for the late Supreme court justice Antonin Scalia, before joining the law faculty at the University of Notre Dame.
A devout Catholic, she has been a favourite of anti-abortion conservatives who hope that a conservative majority on the bench will eventually result in a challenge to the 1973 Roe V Wade ruling that introduced the right to abortion.
Ms Barrett was pressed on her religious views, and whether they would influence her job as a judge, during her confirmation hearing for the appeals court vacancy in 2017. She told senators that her faith would not affect her decisions as an appellate judge.
If confirmed, Ms Barrett’s appointment to the bench will shift the ideological bent of the court to the right, given that she will be replacing the leading liberal jurist Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Senate Republicans have indicated they will press ahead with a confirmation hearing so close to an election, despite blocking President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace Mr Scalia in 2016 because it was an election year.
With a 53-47 majority in the chamber, senate majority leader Mitch McConnell appears to have enough votes necessary to confirm the nominee, and may hold the hearing and vote before the November 3rd election. It falls to Senator Lindsey Graham, as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to schedule the hearings.
Mr Kavanaugh’s hearing was one of the most contentious in modern times, after his nomination was overshadowed by claims of sexual harassment by Christine Blasey Ford, a woman who said that Mr Kavanaugh assaulted her at a party as a teenager.