Justice Barrett Participates in Her First Supreme Court Arguments

November 2, 2020 by Dan McCue
Chief Justice John G. Roberts (R) administers the Judicial Oath to U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett as her husband Jesse Barrett holds the Bible in the East Conference Room, Supreme Court Building on Oct. 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Fred Schilling/Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States via Getty Images/TNS)

WASHINGTON — Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined her new colleagues on the Supreme Court Monday, participating in oral arguments for the first time.

The cases on the docket Monday were no head-turners. The first, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service v. Sierra Club Inc., concerned public disclosure of agency documents during the earliest phases of crafting a new regulation.

The regulation at issue in the case involved the use of cooling structures by facilities such as power and manufacturing plants.

While it was never likely to set off bells and whistles in or outside the court, after today it will be noteworthy for the fact it inspired Justice Barrett to ask her first question on the court.

Following up on a series of questions posed by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Barrett asked attorneys for the Sierra Club what factors they think a court should consider in determining whether a draft agency document should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

To frame her question, she offered the hypothetical situation of a government official stamping “draft” on a document in a bid to try to avoid disclosing it.

The new justice wanted to know what other factors courts should consider to determine whether the document should be disclosed anyway.

The second case on the docket, Salinas v. United States Railroad Retirement Board, focused on whether the Railroad Retirement Board’s refusal to reconsider a prior benefits determination is a “final decision” subject to judicial review.

Such seemingly mundane but important cases are the norm rather than the exception of what comes before the high court, but Barrett won’t have to wait long before she gets to hear something juicier.

On Wednesday, the morning after the election, the justices will hear Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, Pa., a case in which they’ll consider whether religious organizations should be exempt from government policies that bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

And next week, on Nov. 10, the court is scheduled to hear arguments on whether the Affordable Care Act is constitutional, in whole or in part.

Democrats who opposed Barrett’s confirmation, claimed that the Obama-era health law would be in jeopardy if Barrett joined the court. President Donald Trump is urging the court to overturn it.

During her confirmation hearing, Barrett, when asked about her position on the constitutional issues involving the ACA, stated she could not comment on an upcoming case.

That inspired Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., to ask whether her previous writings, which were critical of the health care law, would affect her decision in the upcoming case.

“I think that your concern is that because I critiqued the statutory reasoning that I’m hostile to the ACA, and that because I’m hostile to the ACA, I would decide a case a particular way,” Barrett said.

“I’m not hostile to the ACA. I’m not hostile to any statute that you pass,” she said.

Barrett’s debut came as the justices continue to hear cases by phone because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

But the lack of proximity didn’t stop Chief Justice John Roberts from warmly welcoming the new justice to the court.

“Before we commence the business of the court this morning it gives me great pleasure on behalf of myself and my colleagues to welcome Justice Barrett to the court,” he said, wishing her “a long and happy career in our common calling.”

Though she was confirmed a week ago today in a 52-48 Senate vote, Barrett did not participate in the justice’s private conference Friday, so that she could prepare for this week’s oral arguments.

In The News

Health

Voting

Supreme Court

Supreme Court Appears Likely to Uphold Arizona Voting Restrictions
Supreme Court
Supreme Court Appears Likely to Uphold Arizona Voting Restrictions
March 2, 2021
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – All six conservative justices on the Supreme Court appeared inclined Tuesday to support voting restrictions imposed in Arizona that critics say discriminate against racial minorities.  The case, Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee (Consolidated), is one of the most watched of the current Supreme Court... Read More

Supreme Court Deals Blow to Trump
Supreme Court
Supreme Court Deals Blow to Trump
February 22, 2021
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected an effort by former President Donald Trump to shield his income tax records from N.Y. prosecutors. The court’s action is the apparent culmination of a lengthy legal battle that had already reached the high court once before.... Read More

Biden Administration Asks Supreme Court to Uphold ACA
Supreme Court
Biden Administration Asks Supreme Court to Uphold ACA
February 11, 2021
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - The White House on Wednesday informed the Supreme Court it believes the Affordable Care Act should be upheld, reversing the position taken by the Trump Administration. The justices heard oral arguments in November in multiple cases involving a group of Republican-led states attempting to... Read More

Supreme Court Tosses Emoluments Lawsuits Against Trump, Calling Them Moot
Supreme Court
Supreme Court Tosses Emoluments Lawsuits Against Trump, Calling Them Moot
January 25, 2021
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a pair of emoluments lawsuits against former President Donald Trump, ruling the cases are moot now that he's left office. The lawsuits were filed by the attorneys general for Maryland and Washington, D.C., and the government watchdog, Citizens... Read More

Supreme Court Allows Government to Enforce Abortion Pill Rule
Supreme Court
Supreme Court Allows Government to Enforce Abortion Pill Rule
January 13, 2021
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Supreme Court lifted a nationwide injunction Tuesday that had prevented the federal government from enforcing a rule that required women to see a health care professional in person before she'd be given access to a so-called abortion pill. The Food and Drug... Read More

Supreme Court Rules Challenge to Trump Census Plan is Premature
Supreme Court
Supreme Court Rules Challenge to Trump Census Plan is Premature
December 18, 2020
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a challenge to President Donald Trump's plan to exclude people living in the country illegally from the population count as premature. Trump's insistence that illegal immigrants be excluded from the count could profoundly impact the number of seats... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top