A stand-out moment during the US Supreme Court’s confirmation hearing for nominee Amy Coney Barrett is garnering attention after a blind clerk shared her heartfelt testimony of her law journey and how Barrett was with her every step of the way.
Laura Wolk lost her sight as an infant due to retinal cancer, but never let it stop her from pursuing what she called a “seemingly impossible dream.” It’s a dream she says Barrett helped her achieve.
When she took the stand Thursday, Wolk reminisced on her time at the University of Notre Dame’s law school, where she struggled to keep up in class due to a series of events that left her without special technology she heavily relies on to succeed. Wolk said this is where Judge Barrett stepped in.
“To my great fortune, I had been randomly assigned to Judge Barrett’s civil procedure class as part of my first semester schedule,” Wolk testified to Congress. “Though I had only known her for a few weeks, her rare combination of graciousness and warmth gave me hope that she could assist me in procuring the technology from Notre Dame as a stopgap measure until I could fix my own.”
Wolk went on to share that Barrett did more than just help her get what she needed, but lifted the burden from her completely.
“As a person with a disability, I am constantly playing the role of self-advocate,” she said. “I am accustomed to projecting an air of self-assuredness even when I do not feel it, of acting like I have everything under control when in reality the world feels like it is spinning out from under me. But in front of Judge Barrett, I was able to let the mask slip— indeed, to disappear completely.”
She continued, “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’.”
This encounter, Wolk said, is just one example that sheds a light on why Barrett’s seat on the High Court would have a beneficial and lasting impact.
“Anyone who has interacted with her knows that she is a woman of her word,” Wolk said. “She means what she says, and she says what she means. When she promised that she would advocate for me, not just with me, she commanded my trust. I knew, instantly, that Judge Barrett would deliver. “
Wolk now practices law in Washington and was a clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas during the Supreme Court’s 2019 term making her the first blind woman to serve as a law clerk on the Supreme Court of the United States.
She says the legacy she hopes to leave behind, started with Barrett.
“Judge Barrett has given me a gift of immeasurable value: the ability to pursue an abundant life with the potential to break down barriers so that I can leave this world a better place than I found it,” Wolk said. “I can only hope that I will do so with half as much grace, poise, and courage as she has modeled for me in life and now for the American people.”
Wolk said of Barrett’s critics, “This idea that Professor Barrett was somehow handicapped by the size of her family life or her commitment just shows that these people who are saying that have never met someone who is practiced at the act of radical love the way that Professor Barrett is; because radical love makes you a bigger person. It expands your heart. It doesn’t constrict it.”