Justice Amy Coney Barrett on Monday participated in her first
Supreme Court oral argument after joining the bench last week following a contentious Senate confirmation process.
Chief Justice John Roberts welcomed her ahead of arguments in a case involving an environmental group seeking access to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) records.
“It gives me great pleasure on behalf of myself and my colleagues to welcome Justice Barrett to the court,” Roberts said.
Barrett did not participate last week in a series of closely watched court rulings involving disputes over extensions to mail ballot due dates in Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
Monday’s arguments were held by telephone, as part of the Supreme Court’s coronavirus safety measures. Roberts asked the first set of questions, followed by the other justices in order of seniority, with Barrett going last.
“I want to pick up on this thread that Justice Kavanaugh was just exploring with you,” Barrett told Matthew Guarnieri, a Justice Department lawyer who argued for the government’s interest in keeping the EPA records secret under an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
“You said that if a government official simply stamped ‘draft’ on it and sent it over … in order to avoid FOIA disclosure requirements, you said that a court might look at other factors to determine whether it’s still final,” she said. “What other factors would a court consider?”
A decision in the case, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service v. Sierra Club, is expected some time before the term ends in late June.
Barrett, who is expected to cement a 6-3 conservative majority on the court for years, will likely face greater scrutiny on Wednesday when she participates in a dispute out of Philadelphia that pits religious rights against nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people.
She may also hold a key vote in deciding any additional election-related litigation from Pennsylvania or other states after, or related to, the elections.
(Matzav / The Hill).