First blind Supreme Court clerk describes her former professor as ‘one of the kindest individuals I have ever known’
Laura Wolk, the first blind woman to serve as a law clerk on the U.S. Supreme Court who had Barrett as a professor in law school, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify in support of her confirmation to the Supreme Court.
While she described Barrett’s judicial qualities as “beyond reproach,” Wolk maintained that “the country will receive something far greater than simply an unparalleled legal mind.” She said that with Barrett on the Supreme Court, the United States 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,” she said. Wolk went on to recount how she has “experienced these characteristics firsthand with life-changing results.”
She explained that because she was blind, she needed “assistive technology to compete on a level playing field” with her fellow law students. She had requested that Notre Dame purchase backup copies of her assistive technology but “bureaucratic glitches” prevented her from accessing that technology.
After her personal laptop failed, Wolk recalled how she found herself “struggling to keep up in class,” adding, “I needed help and I needed it fast.” She said that while she had only had Barrett as a professor for a short time, she felt hopeful that “her graciousness and warmth” would compel her to give her the help she needed. Despite her hopefulness, Wolk still had her doubts.
“I assumed that Judge Barrett would simply direct me to the proper bureaucratic channels, which could still take weeks if not longer to navigate,” she said. But Barrett exceeded her expectations.
“She silently listened with deep attention as I explained my situation, giving me the freedom to let down my guard and come apart. As a disabled person, I am accustomed to acting as if I have everything under control, when in reality, the world feels like it is spinning out from under me,” Wolk stated.
After Wolk completely opened up to Barrett about all of her concerns, she said her professor “leaned forward and looked at me intently,” declaring, “This is no longer your problem, it’s my problem.”
She admitted that “to this day, I do not know what Judge Barrett did to solve my problem.”
“All I know is that the technology arrived promptly, which, in turn, allowed me to excel and to place me in a position that would eventually allow me to apply for a clerkship on the Supreme Court,” she explained. “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.”
According to Wolk, Barrett’s mentorship gave her “a gift of immeasurable value, the ability to live an abundant life with the potential to break down barriers so that I can leave this world a better place than I found it.”
“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,” she added.
“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.”