Amy Coney Barrett, who is President Donald Trump’s nominee to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court, is married to a former federal prosecutor with whom she has seven children.
Amy Barrett and her husband, Jesse, who is a federal prosecutor, have seven children together. Two of their children were born in Haiti, and they are also raising a special needs child who has Down Syndrome. The children ranged in age from 5 to 16 when Barrett introduced them during her nomination hearing to the federal bench. President Trump praised what he described as her inspirational bond with her youngest son, who has Down Syndrome. She would be the first mother of school-age children to be on the U.S. Supreme Court, said Trump.
Barrett, a former law professor who took a seat on the federal bench in 2017 as a Trump appointee, has been on Donald Trump’s short list of 25 candidates for U.S. Supreme Court since the Anthony Kennedy replacement fight.
At only 48-years-old, Barrett is also relatively young. A devout Catholic, she is from a very large family that appears to have deep ties to a Christian community known as People of Praise. You can read her Judiciary Committee questionnaire from when she was first nominated to the federal bench by Donald Trump here. She was confirmed in 2017.
“They came to us five years apart when they were very young,” Barrett said at her nomination press conference of the two children born in Haiti. As for the special needs child, her youngest son, Barrett said, “His brothers and sisters unreservedly identify him as their favorite sibling.”
“Our children make our life very full,” said Barrett during her nomination press conference, describing herself as a car pool driver, room parent, and birthday party driver, in addition to a federal judge. She described her children as her “greatest joy” but admitted they deprive her of sleep.
Amy Barrett also praised her husband, Jesse Barrett, saying that, “At the start of our marriage I imagined we would run our marriage as partners” but adding that Jesse ended up doing “more than his share of the work,” and their children consider him the better cook. She said that he asks her “every single morning” what he can do for her that day and even when she says nothing, he still finds ways “to take things off my plate” despite the fact he has a busy law practice.
She described him as a “superb and generous husband” and said they are co-principals of the Barrett e-learning academy.
Here’s what you need to know about Amy Coney Barrett’s family:
1. Amy Coney Barrett & Her Husband, Jesse Barrett, Have Seven Children, Including a Daughter From Haiti Described as Their ‘Miracle’
During her confirmation hearing to the federal bench, Amy Barrett spoke at length about her family and children. She said she was accompanied to the hearing by her husband, Jesse, and their three oldest daughters of seven children.
“Emma is 16. The first apple of our eye,” Barrett told the Judiciary Committee. “Vivian, directly next to Emma, is 13. Vivian is our miracle. Vivian joined our family… She was born in Haiti. She came home when she was 14 months old and she weighed 11 pounds, and she was so weak we were told she might never walk normally or speak. Today Vivian is a track star, and I assure you she has no trouble talking. Tess sitting next to Vivian is also 13-years-old. Both in 8th grade. She’s one of the most compassionate and determined people that I know.”
During the confirmation hearing, Barrett also revealed that she and her husband are raising a special needs child and that they also have a second child who was born in Haiti.
“Our four children at home are with friends and fearless babysitters. John Peter is 10. He was born in Haiti. He joined our family in 2010 when he was 3-years-old after the devastating earthquake,” she said.
“Liam is 8. Typically curious 8-year-old. And Juliet is our spunky 6-year-old. Benjamin our youngest is five. He has special needs. That presents unique challenges for all of us. But I think all you need to know about Benjamin’s place in the family is summed up by the fact the other children unreservedly identify him as their favorite sibling.”
Barrett’s parents were also at the hearing. “I have with me my parents. Mike and Linda. They traveled from Louisiana. Where I was born and raised. And it is impossible to overstate the impact that their support and example have had in my life,” she said. You can see photos of Jesse Barrett at his wife’s investiture. Amy’s parents, Michael and Linda Coney, were also photographed at her side during the event.
The family is Catholic. Amy Coney Barrett’s religion provoked controversy during her nomination hearing to become a federal judge. According to National Review, Amy Coney Barrett is considered a devout Catholic. “…she speaks about God as if she really believes in His existence,” the conservative website National Review reported of Barrett’s faith.
A letter supporting Amy Barrett’s nomination as a federal judge from former students and graduates of Notre Dame Law School (where she was a professor) evoked her ability to raise seven children along with forging a successful, high-level career, saying, “Professor Barrett and her husband, Jesse, are raising seven children—a remarkable feat in itself. Professor Barrett’s dedication as a spouse and mother alongside her stellar teaching and scholarship represents the epitome of Notre Dame Law School’s challenge for its graduates to be ‘a different kind of lawyer.’”
In 2017, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) caused controversy when Barrett was nominated to the federal appellate court by bringing up her religion and saying she was concerned “the dogma lives loudly within you.”
In a graduation speech, Barrett referenced God, saying, “No matter how exciting any career is, what is it really worth if you don’t make it part of a bigger life project to know, love and serve the God who made you?”
The Christian Broadcasting Network reported that evangelicals were “buzzing about Amy Coney Barrett.” David Brody, CBN’s Chief Political Correspondent, told the network, “Many of my sources, evangelical in nature, love her. They believe that she is the one that if they had their dream pick that she would be the one. Barrett has been very outspoken of her Catholic views and God.”
2. Jesse Barrett, His Father & Amy Barrett’s Father Belong to a Religious Group Called ‘People of Praise,’ The New York Times Reported
Amy Coney Barrett belongs to a “small, tightly knit Christian group called People of Praise,” The New York Times reported in September 2017. According to The Times, the group’s members “swear a lifelong oath of loyalty, called a covenant, to one another, and are assigned and are accountable to a personal adviser, called a ‘head’ for men and a ‘handmaid’ (now woman leader) for women. The group teaches that husbands are the heads of their wives and should take authority over the family.” The Times indicated that Amy Barrett’s family has deep ties to the group.
Amy Barrett’s dad Mike Coney is a deacon. “She is the eldest of seven children of Deacon Mike Coney, who is a permanent deacon assigned to St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Metairie, and his wife Linda. Amy attended St. Catherine of Siena School and graduated from St. Mary’s Dominican High School in 1990,” reported The Clarion Herald. Her father is an attorney.
The Times reports that members of the group take direction from the heads and handmaids (or woman leader) on major decisions, even down to whom they marry. According to the Times’ interviews with current and former members, Amy Barrett, her husband, and both of their fathers are members of the group. As noted, Amy Barrett’s father is named Michael Coney and he’s based in Louisiana.
Under this scenario, as Amy Barrett is married, her “head” would be Jesse Barrett, as a manuscript by a former People of Praise member explains that married women are advised by their spouse and single women by the handmaids (now women leaders). However, Jesse Barrett would also have a “head” within the church himself; the manuscript claims that confidentiality is not usually practiced within the church.
“Current and former members of People of Praise said that Ms. Barrett and her husband, who have seven children, both belong to the group, and that their fathers have served as leaders,” The Times reported.
A man named Mike Coney from New Orleans was elected to the People of Praise group’s Board of Directors in 2012. It appears from social media postings that Amy Barrett’s father and brother are both named Michael Coney. The Mike Coney who was a leader on the board of directors is the older Coney and is married to Linda, which is the name of Amy’s mother. You can see his photo here.
A post by People of Praise on Mike Coney says that he is a “husband, father, grandfather, deacon, lawyer and coordinator” who headed the People of Praise’s New Orleans branch for more than a decade. “Mike continues to serve on the community’s board of governors and as the coordinator responsible for the Biloxi, Mobile and Shreveport branches,” the post on the People of Praise website reads. He was described as showing leadership during Hurricane Katrina and opening his home to a family in need during another hurricane.
According to UK Daily Mail, “At least 10 members of Barrett’s family, not including their children, also belong to the group,” and the site confirms that the Mike Coney described above is Barrett’s dad. Of Barrett’s five sisters, at least three are closely involved in the group, Daily Mail reports. Her brother Michael was a “full-time worker” for the group, the site reports, noting that Coney’s dad lives on a block with other People of Praise families and her husband’s brother, Nathan Barrett, also belongs to the People of Praise. Amy Barrett’s mother was previously a “handmaid,” according to Daily Mail.
A man whose Twitter page identifies him as a member of the People of Praise wrote on Twitter in 2010, “+1 (equals 6 kids now) to the Jesse & Amy Barrett clan! Welcome, Juliet Jeanne! Praise God!”
In 2009, the same man wrote on Twitter, “dinner @ jesse & amy barrett’s last night…”
Heavy reached out to People of Praise and asked whether it’s true that Amy Barrett, her husband, and their fathers are members of People of Praise. “The People of Praise does not publicly disclose membership information. Members are free to speak publicly on their own behalf,” Sean Connelly, media contact for the community, responded.
Connelly provided Heavy with a “People of Praise fact sheet.”
He also provided the following statement:
The People of Praise is an ecumenical, charismatic, covenant community. Our model and inspiration is the first Christian community, a small band of disciples who ‘were of one heart and soul’ and ‘held all things in common.’ (Acts 4:33, 2:44).
A majority of People of Praise members are Catholic, and yet the People of Praise is not a Catholic group. We aim to be a witness to the unity Jesus desires for all his followers. Our membership includes not only Catholics but Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, Pentecostals and nondenominational Christians. What we share is a common baptism, a commitment to love one another and our teachings, which we hold in common.
Freedom of conscience is a key to our diversity. People of Praise members are always free to follow their consciences, as formed by the light of reason, experience and the teachings of their churches.
Regarding handmaids, the People of Praise has both male and female leaders. For many years, we referred to our female leaders as handmaids, following the use of the term by Mary, Jesus’s mother, who calls herself ‘the handmaid of the Lord,’ as reported in the Bible (Lk. 1:38). Recognizing that the meaning of this term has shifted dramatically in our culture in recent years, we no longer use the term handmaid to describe those women who are leaders in the People of Praise.
The Catholic League wrote an article challenging depictions of People of Praise as a cult and arguing Barrett is unfairly subjected to scrutiny for her Catholicism, writing, “Among other things, it operates interracial schools and camps, and provides for many family outings; members often travel together. Is it a Catholic fringe group? No, for if it were, Pope Francis would not have welcomed it in June: he celebrated with them, and others, the 50th anniversary of the Catholic charismatic renewal; the event drew over 30,000 people from 128 countries.”
The Catholic League article continues, “Praise for People publishes a magazine, V&B (Vine and Branches), that offers concrete proof that it is anything but a cult. The cover story of the Winter 2014 edition was called, ‘Looking at Marriage.'” The Catholic League says the group “was founded in 1971 in South Bend, Indiana. Today it has branches throughout North America and the Caribbean” and “aligns itself with ‘the Pentecostal movement or the charismatic renewal.’”
The group’s website describes itself as “an ecumenical, charismatic, covenant community. Our model and inspiration is the first Christian community, a small band of disciples who ‘were of one heart and soul’ and ‘held all things in common.’ (Acts 4:33, 2:44). We can be difficult for the public and the press to understand. In truth, we are a community that defies categories.”
The website describes the group’s missionary work and says it’s open to more than Catholics. “In Evansville, IN, a group of People of Praise missionaries moved into two houses at a notorious intersection, a place locals called ‘the devil’s corner’ because of all the fights and drug deals. We didn’t arrive with any program or magic formula, but hoped to encounter neighbors in a spirit of Christian friendship,” the site explained. The group claims the covenant is not an oath or vow.
According to The Federalist, which believes concerns about the group are unfair, “It is perhaps worth noting that Pope Francis named a member of this group auxiliary bishop of Portland in 2014, so membership in the group must not be disqualifying in the eyes of the Vatican.”
National Review notes that Cardinal Francis George once said, “In my acquaintance with the People of Praise, I have found men and women dedicated to God and eager to seek and do His divine will. They are shaped by love of Holy Scripture, prayer and community; and the Church’s mission is richer for their presence” and adds, “Pope Francis appointed one of its members as auxiliary bishop of Portland.”
However, Professor Adrian Reimers, a former People of Praise member who wrote a manuscript about the organization, has raised concerns about the group, writing, “These pastoral systems are not harmless. Growing evidence, along with a proper understanding of their dynamics, suggests that these systems cripple community members psychologically, reducing them to fear and bondage rather than liberating them for the authentic freedom of sons and daughters of God.”
3. Barrett Says She Hit the ‘Jackpot’ Marrying Jesse & Coney’s Mother Posts About Religion & Abortion on Facebook
Amy Coney Barrett’s husband, Jesse M. Barrett, is an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana, according to The Commercial Appeal.
During her confirmation hearing, Barrett said that her husband “serves our country” as an assistant United States Attorney in the northern district of Indiana and added, “I hit the jackpot when I married Jesse. We have been married 18 years with each year better than the last. Jesse and I have seven children.”
Jesse Barrett’s LinkedIn page says was a prosecutor based in the South Bend, Indiana area. However, he is now in private practice. According to Fox News, whether to stay home and raise the kids was a struggle for Amy and Jesse, and an aunt helped with the children so the parents could work.
Amy Barrett’s mother’s Facebook page doesn’t have a lot on it that’s public other than family photos and shares relating to religious posts and articles. The photos indicate that Amy Barrett Coney has multiple siblings. In one Facebook post, Linda Coney, shared a post against abortion. Abortion is expected to be a major concern in the Supreme Court nomination process because liberals are worried a more solidly conservative tilting court could overturn Roe v. Wade.
Linda Coney lives in Metairie, Louisiana, and studied at St. Mary’s Dominican High School and the University of New Orleans. Amy Barrett’s mother is from New Orleans.
4. Jesse Barrett Says It’s ‘Humbling’ to Be Married to Amy Coney Barrett
When Amy Barrett was sworn in as a federal judge, her husband Jesse was at her side. According to Notre Dame Law School, Barrett’s husband Jesse Barrett, who has a law degree from the university, “earned a standing ovation after he delivered a touching speech about his wife’s gift for empathy and personal relationships.”
“The couple met at Notre Dame Law School, and he talked about the many changes they have experienced together as they have lived in different cities, houses, and apartments, and brought seven children into their lives,” the Law School article states, quoting Jesse Barrett as saying, “But there is one thing that hasn’t changed – it is humbling to be married to Amy Barrett. You can’t outwork Amy. I’ve also learned you can’t outfriend Amy.”
During her nomination hearing, Amy Barrett was asked about “an article she wrote about Congress’s decision to reduce sentencing disparities between criminal cases involving crack and those involving powder cocaine,” reported The Indiana Lawyer. A senator claimed the article was critical of the law.
“Barrett said the writing he was referring to was a blog post that grew out of a conversation she had with her husband, Jesse Barrett, assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Indiana. In the post, she said she wondered what the process would be for handling the retroactive claims and solicited opinions about the issue,” the magazine reported.
5. Jesse Barrett Has Handled Gun Prosecutions
Some of Jesse Barrett’s cases have involved felons in possession of firearms, according to U.S. Department of Justice press releases. That was when he was still a federal prosecutor.
Jesse Barrett is a partner at law firm SouthBank Legal in South Bend, Indiana.
For example, one release said, “David Rodriguez, 32, of Elkhart, Indiana pled guilty to the felony offense of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. The magistrate judge is recommending that the district court accept the tendered guilty plea. Parties have 14 days in which to object to the magistrate judge’s recommendation. This charge was filed as a result of an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Sentencing has been set for November 10, 2014. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jesse Barrett.”
Another case involved obstructing the mail.