A blind former student and mentee of Judge Amy Coney Barrett testified to Barrett’s compassion and humanity during the fourth day of the judge’s confirmation hearings on Thursday.
Laura Wolk delivered a touching testimony of Barrett’s kindness and encouragement as Wolk navigated Notre Dame Law School, and later a Supreme Court clerkship, with her disability. Wolk credited Barrett’s aid for her becoming the first blind person to clerk at the Supreme Court.
“You have heard over the past few days about Judge Barrett’s judicial qualities, which are beyond reproach. But should you confirm Amy Barrett, the country will receive something far greater than simply an unparalleled legal mind,” Wolk said. “It will gain the service of one of the kindest individuals I have ever known. Her brilliance is matched only by her compassion, and her integrity is unassailable.”
Wolk started her first year at Notre Dame Law School behind after she was left without the “assistive technology” she needed, and her personal computer began to fail. Though she had requested backups from the school before her arrival, “bureaucratic glitches” resulted in Notre Dame not having any backup technology on hand for Wolk to use.
“I had been Judge Barrett’s student only for a few weeks, but her graciousness and warmth gave me hope that she could provide me with that assistance. Even so, I maintained relatively low expectations. Based on my past experience, I assumed that Judge Barrett would simply direct me to the proper bureaucratic channels, which could still take weeks, if not longer, to navigate,” Wolk said.
“But Judge Barrett did something altogether different. She silently listened with deep attention as I explained my situation, giving me the freedom to let down my guard and come apart,” Wolk said, later adding: “I poured out all my concerns—not just about technology and my worries about failing classes, but all the burdens I currently carried as a disabled woman navigating a brand new environment. When I finished, Judge Barrett leaned forward and looked at me intently. ‘Laura,’ she said, with the same measured conviction that we have seen displayed throughout her entire nomination process, ‘this is no longer your problem. It’s my problem.’”
Wolk said that after her meeting with Barrett, “the technology arrived promptly,” and helped set her on a path to clerk at the Supreme Court.
“This encounter was the first in which Judge Barrett demonstrated the depth of her generous spirit, but it was far from the last. 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,” Wolk said.
“Though I am here today to share with you my story, the very best aspect of that story is that it is hardly unique. Those who have had the benefit of knowing Amy Coney Barrett understand that she possesses a boundless font of energy and a radical sense of love that she is ever-ready to pour out upon those lucky enough to call her teacher, boss, family, and friend,” Wolk concluded. “Judge Barrett will serve this country with distinction, not only because of her intellectual prowess, but also because of her ability to treat everyone as an equal, deserving of complete respect. As a beneficiary of both of these qualities, I urge you to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court of the United States.”