A Rising Tide: Justice Amy Coney Barrett's Ascent to the Supreme Court Positively Impacts Notre Dame and Weigand Alumni and Scholars
By Olivia Rogers, ND ‘23
There’s a famous saying: a rising tide lifts all boats. There was a high tide at Notre Dame Law School in October 2020, when alumni and faculty member Amy Coney Barrett was nominated to the Supreme Court of the United States. Her nomination made waves: a female nominee, first Notre Dame alumni, mother of seven, and brilliant jurist, all in the context of a politically polarized time. 

Jake Baska, director of admissions and financial aid at Notre Dame Law School, said, “As a country, we should make use of our most talented citizens –people who come forward to offer service. When people of Amy Coney Barrett’s character and intelligence want to offer their service, we should take it. Whether you agree or disagree with her judicial writings, she’s the kind of person we would want in this position.” 

My fellow Weigand Scholar Courtney Klaus (ND ‘23) and I were thrilled to be at Notre Dame in such a historic time. But we weren’t the only Weigands in close proximity to a Supreme Court Justice. Katie Jo Luningham (ND ‘15) and Ryan Raybould (ND ‘12) both had connections to Justice Barrett that intersected at different points in her rise to national acclaim. 

Katie Jo got to know then-professor Barrett during her first year of law school, when Katie Jo was in Barrett’s Civil Procedure class and also assigned as her law school faculty mentor. Justice Barrett served as a mentor to Katie Jo during her time at Notre Dame, and even wrote a letter of recommendation for her Weigand scholarship application. Katie described Justice Barrett as someone who would take time to get to know each student and “who was supportive of people holistically. She cared about more than just your academic progress”

Katie Jo explained, “My conversations with Justice Barrett changed my trajectory because she encouraged me to think about different opportunities, like clerkships, that were available to me.”

As for Justice Barrett’s Civil Procedure class, it was “the best class I ever took,” Katie Jo said. She also took Professor Barrett’s infamous Evidence class, where Justice Barrett wove My Cousin Vinny references with hard-hitting material and high expectations for class performance. Her classes were difficult, but Professor Barrett was warm, kind, interesting and authentic —“the kind of professor you wanted to learn from. She was tough and everyone wanted to do well in her class.”

Even as a student at Notre Dame, Katie Jo was impressed by Justice Barrett’s legal knowledge and leadership. “She is one of those people who it’s natural to view as a role model – not just because she’s so accomplished and was, in many respects, a legend in her own time and right at Notre Dame, but also because she was so genuine and approachable.” For Katie Jo, watching Amy Coney Barrett on national television during the confirmation hearings was “a chance for everyone else to see what those of us at Notre Dame already knew: Amy Barrett really is that smart and bright and thoughtful and authentic. How she handled herself during her confirmation hearing was really a shining example of why many of us looked up to her at Notre Dame.”

Katie Jo Luningham
While Katie Jo encountered Justice Barrett before her rise to national achievement, Ryan Raybould was in on the action of the confirmation hearings. 

As an alumni of Notre Dame, Ryan had heard of Justice Barrett and interacted with her on occasion, but never had the opportunity to take a class with her. Ryan currently works as Chief Counsel to Senator John Cornyn. Senator Cornyn sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which put Ryan in the thick of the action during Justice Barrett’s nomination and confirmation hearings. 
If you watched the confirmation hearings, you probably saw Ryan on your screen, as he sat right behind Senator Cornyn. 

Ryan’s job was to prepare the Senator for the hearings. He organized the overall strategy, questions for the Senator to ask, and generally prepare him to understand Justice Barrett’s jurisprudence and what role she would play on the Supreme Court.
Senator Cornyn asked the question heard ‘round the meme world: “Most of us have multiple notebooks and notes and books and things like that in front of us...Can you hold up what you’ve been referring to in answering our questions?” In answer, Justice Barrett held up a blank notepad. 

Ryan said seeing that moment in person was very impactful. “It showed she really has a command of the facts and is so bright,” he said. “Whether you’re conservative or liberal, it’s great to see a very bright, well put together, wonderful mother and wonderful wife be there and be a representative for women everywhere.” For Ryan, Justice Barrett represents “what a judge should be: someone who decides issues based on what’s put before her, the facts, and the law—she’ll be great on the Court in that respect.” 

Although I did not meet Justice Barrett or pass her in the halls during the first few weeks of the fall semester, she certainly made an impact on me as a young woman in law school. While I may not be on the Supreme Court someday, I hope to have a fulfilling legal career, and also be a dedicated wife and mother. That certainly doesn’t come without hard work or sacrifice, but Justice Barrett’s life and accomplishments are a testament to the fact that it is possible. Not to mention, watching Justice Barrett effortlessly answer legal questions in the Senate confirmation hearings motivated me to study a little harder for my final exams. 

The Weigand community is known for its far reach and accomplished alumni. It’s amazing to see the Weigand family in nearly every corner of the law, and now in connection to a Supreme Court justice. And, as each member rises, the rest of the community rises with them. 
Ryan and Brooke with their children, Rhett (5), Vance (3), and Beauden (1).
Private Practice, Public Sector, and the Judiciary:
Sarah Macke Compares the Variety of Positions She’s Held as a Young Attorney 

By Emily Reed, KU ‘21
When Sarah Burch Macke, (Notre Dame ‘13), answered the phone for this interview, she had one quick warning – “If you hear any weird sounds on this side of the phone, don’t worry, I’m just feeding my baby a bottle.” This top-notch multi-tasking would come as a surprise to no one that knows Sarah because, well, she does it all. And less than eight years after graduating law school, Sarah has experienced private practice, a federal clerkship, and is now an Assistant United States Attorney.

In addition to being a mom to two beautiful kids, Cate and Madelyn, Sarah began her current role as a Civil AUSA in the District of Kansas in January, 2019. According to Sarah, there are a few differences she’s noticed between public and private practice, but every position has its own benefits and challenges.  “They may just come in different shapes and sizes,” Sarah said.

With regard to work-life balance, for example, Sarah explained that government positions may come with more certainty given the regulations and policies in place. Because those policies are public, you generally know what to expect when accepting a position. For example, Congress recently passed a law that gave federal government employees 12 weeks of paid parental leave regardless of gender. A great benefit for government employees, but, Sarah’s baby came just days too early to take advantage of the new policy. “I tried to make it, but sadly Madelyn had a different plan,” Sarah said with a laugh.

And there are benefits to private practice too. Sarah noted, “Each firm can be different, but that can be a good thing. Sometimes that can lead to more leeway and creativity in coming up with your own plan after kids, with lightening your workload, part-time options, etc.” So for Sarah, it’s really about asking the right questions when looking for jobs, and she doesn’t believe one area is universally better than another in terms of work-life balance. 

Sarah also noted that, although there are some differences in public and private jobs, some things remain the same. One example of this is having a flexible schedule. “My day to day schedules have looked different in my positions, but each position has given me the flexibility to make it to certain school events, meetings, and things like that. I think in all positions it is important to get your work done and your hours in. When you’re doing that, you generally have some freedom to arrange your schedule so that you can make it to parent teacher conferences. That rings true wherever you are, at least in my experiences.”

Another constant among public and private sectors: effective communication skills. “Some people think about writing in private practice as different than public, especially when working for a court. There are differences, but I’ve learned that the ability to write in a clear, succinct, and persuasive manner is important, regardless of whether you’re writing a letter, memo, motion, or other legal document,” Sarah said.

When asked what advice Sarah would give to current law students or new lawyers, Sarah’s response was simple, “Look at the people you’ll be working with, and find the place you fit in best. Some weeks you see your coworkers more than you see your family. So really ask and learn about the culture, and be willing to put that above almost anything else. Private, public, clerkship, different areas of law – all that matters, but I would say it’s not as important as being surrounded by people you enjoy working and socializing with.” 
Sarah and Eric with their children, Cate and Madelyn
Will you help?

As part of an ongoing effort to enrichen the Weigand community, Olivia Rogers (1L at Notre Dame) and Emily Reed (3L at KU) researched, interviewed our alumni and wrote these articles under the skilled assistance of our editor, Jennifer Salva (Washburn, '19).

If would you are willing to help contribute to a future edition of the WeigandWire, or have an idea for an article, please contact Jennifer Salva. Thank you!