WASHINGTON – Few Supreme Court justices have reached the highest bench in the land with as much immediate potential to influence American democracy as Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
After being sworn in before Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday, Barrett became the person who could tip the scales on challenges to state election procedures that could determine who would win the White House and control Congress a week later.
She has become the potential deciding vote in a court case the court will hear early next month that threatens the health care of millions of Americans, including those with limited incomes and pre-existing conditions.
She became the potential deciding vote in a case judges will hear the day after the election that will determine the rights of religious believers to be exempted from laws protecting the LGBTQ community.
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She’s become someone who could determine whether the High Court quickly deals with issues ranging from abortion rights and immigration policies to President Donald Trump’s tax returns, foreign entanglements and Twitter followers.
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It won’t take long for Republicans to find out whether the 48-year-old Indianan, a Notre Dame law school professor who served three years as a federal appeals judge, is the reliable conservative they are trying to achieve. ran to be granted a seat for life. the high court before polling day. Democrats will know soon enough if she seems beholden to the president and doesn’t want to vote against her political or personal interests.
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Barrett kept her intentions, as well as most of her opinions, to herself during three days of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. She declined to be pressured by Democrats to state her views on issues that might go to court, which is customary, or even on civic standards such as whether a president loses reelection should commit to a peaceful transfer of power.
Most notably, she declined to say whether she would recuse herself from matters involving the presidential election, given Trump’s expressed desire to involve her.
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“I certainly hope that all members of the committee will have more confidence in my integrity than thinking that I would let myself be used as a pawn to decide the election of the American people,” she said.
Since April, the High Court has been called upon to intervene in state electoral disputes that affect who can vote, where, when and how. One week before the election, the judges reflect on the challenges facing Pennsylvania and North Carolina, two key states on the battlefield, that could impact the presidential race.
In the Pennsylvania case, the court blocked 4-4 last week if mail-in ballots can be received up to three days after election day. The move left a state court ruling allowing the extension in place, but Republican opponents returned to the Supreme Court this week to seek a new ruling with input from Barrett.
Beyond the current wave of voting rights cases, the election results may be called into question, especially given the growth in mail-in ballots fueled by the pandemic. This could mean that more cases will be taken to the Supreme Court after polling day.
In Barrett’s final confirmation debate on Monday, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., Accused Trump of wanting her to “‘look at the ballots,” as he put it, and hand him the ballot. election.
From ACA to LGBTQ
Barrett could also have an immediate impact on the major cases that are expected to be heard this year and tried in 2021. Among them, the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act, which the court upheld in 2012 and 2015.
Judges will hear a November 10 challenge launched by Texas and other “red” states, backed by the Trump administration, that would overturn the law because Congress in 2017 eliminated the tax used as a sanction against consumers who do not buy health insurance. . The central question is whether this provision can be deleted while leaving the rest of the law intact.
Barrett told the Judiciary Committee that his previous criticisms of the court’s rulings upholding the law do not apply to the case submitted for plea next month. When asked if she would recuse herself from the case, she replied that it was “a legal matter” that she would discuss with her colleagues.
“I am not here on a mission to destroy the affordable care law,” she said. As to whether she was questioned prior to her appointment on how she would rule in the upcoming case, she said: “I have never been asked, and if I had been, it would have been a question. short conversation.
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Before this case is heard, the High Court will hold oral argument the day after the election in another major case pitting LGBTQ rights against religious freedom. The case was brought by a Catholic social service agency excluded from the Philadelphia foster care program because it will not place children in same-sex couples.
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Barrett has lectured at the Defending Freedom Alliance, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has referred to as an anti-LGBTQ hate group. Twenty-seven LGBTQ organizations opposed its confirmation in 2017 before the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.
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As the Supreme Court’s tenure advances, judges are scheduled to hear several cases involving Trump personally and politically. They will soon decide to hear his second attempt to keep his tax returns and financial records away from New York prosecutors.
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Cases involving Trump’s border wall, asylum policies, and efforts to exclude undocumented immigrants from the census calculations used to allocate seats in the House of Representatives are already on their list.
And as early as Friday, judges could choose to hear a explosive Mississippi abortion rights case that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
“I made no commitment to anyone, neither in the Senate nor in the White House, on how I would decide any matter,” Barrett said during his confirmation hearing.
Trial by Fire
Barrett’s trial by fire will make those facing Trump’s first two candidates pale, even though both have appeared in court amid previous terms on the Supreme Court.
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Neil Gorsuch had been a partner judge for just 11 weeks in 2017, when he made it clear in one day.
When the court struck down an Arkansas law that treated same-sex couples differently from opposite-sex couples on their children’s birth certificates, he dissented. When he refused to consider challenging the Department of Veterans Affairs’ disability claims assessment system, he dissented. When he refused to hear a challenge to a California law limiting the right to carry a concealed weapon in public, he again voiced his dissent.
And when the court ruled that a church in Missouri could receive public funds for a playground resurfacing, it said religious discrimination was unconstitutional “on the playground or elsewhere.”
A year later, Brett Kavanaugh was quick to show that he would fit more into the mold of Chief Justice John Roberts, who emerged as the swing vote on court. But in almost all of the court’s most controversial cases – abortion, immigration, gay rights, voting rights – he has voted with the Conservative bloc.