Contrary to the narrative that many on the left have been spinning, newly-appointed Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not cold-heartedly deny a rape victim award money during her time on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The story, like many judicial rulings, is far more complex.
The left has unleashed a firestorm of attacks on Justice Amy Coney Barrett since President Trump nominated her to the Supreme Court in September. Many attacks have been aimed at her traditional Catholic beliefs. Other attacks have been speculations on how she will rule on cases that will affect LGBTQ or abortion rights.
There has been very little by way of her actual judicial record to bring against her, save one case from 2018 while she was on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals: Shonda Martin v. Milwaukee County.
Even that, though, is not as clear a case as the left would like to make it.
In 2018, a case came before Amy Coney Barrett and a panel of two other judges on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals involving a female inmate at the Milwaukee County Jail who brought charges against the county for the sexual assaults and rapes she suffered at the hands of one of its jail guards.
In 2013, 19-year-old Shonda Martin discovered she was pregnant soon after arriving at the jail. Xavier Thicklen was assigned as her medical clinic officer, responsible for transporting Martin to and from doctor’s appointments. While on-duty, Thicklen sexually assaulted and raped Martin three times days before she gave birth, and twice shortly after she gave birth.
Thicklen was charged with five counts of second-degree assault in 2013 for which he faced a maximum sentence of 200 years in prison. The felony charges were dropped in a plea deal. Instead, Thicklen pled guilty to one charge of felony misconduct in public office. He was sentenced to three days in the House of Correction and fined $200.
Martin sued Thicklen and Milwaukee County, claiming that the county in which the jail resides was responsible for Thicklen’s abuse of power while an employee at the jail.
A jury ruled in Martin’s favor in 2017 and awarded her $6.7 million. The county appealed, and the case came before a panel of three judges on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Amy Coney Barrett being one of them.
The panel ruled in September 2018 that the county could not be held responsible for Thicklen’s actions 1) because the jail had given sufficient training to all employees, including Thicklen, forbidding them from engaging in sexual activity with inmates; and 2) because the assaults fell outside the Thicklen’s official duties as an employee.
Amy Coney Barrett and her fellow judges ruled that Thicklen alone was responsible for his actions.
They overturned the ruling against the county, but upheld the judgment against Thicklen, calling his crimes against Martin “abhorrent”.
They acknowledged in their decision that Martin “loses perhaps her best chance to collect the judgment. But (the law) does not make public employers absolute insurers against all wrongs.”
The inaccuracy of the left’s allegations in this case were even corrected by Snopes. Barrett and her fellow judges were not deciding on the award – they were deciding on who could be legally held accountable for Thicklen’s actions.
Did it result in a loss of income to Martin? Yes. Are there other matters of justice that could be disputed in this case? Yes. I would argue that every reader should be made uncomfortable by the fact that Thicklen was able to take a plea deal that saved him from a 200-year sentence and slapped him with nothing greater than a $200 fine.
But this case is not an example of a cold-hearted Barrett denying justice to a victim. If anything, it is an example of Barrett upholding her oath to pursue the law wherever it leads her, even against her own policy preferences.