UNITED STATES— On Monday, November 2, Justice Amy Coney Barrett participated in her first Supreme Court oral argument, asking a question in a case on the Freedom of Information Act.
Justice Barrett was appointed to the court on October 27, shortly after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on September 18. Barrett is working in Justice Ginsburg’s old chambers, and has called her predecessor a “woman of enormous talent and consequence” who “serves as an example to us all.”
Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. initiated the session held via telephone by stating: “It gives me great pleasure on behalf of myself and my colleagues to welcome Justice Barrett to the court.”
The case at hand, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service v. Sierra Club, involves the Sierra Club seeking access to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) records.
The justices ask questions in order of seniority, so Justice Barrett went last. Her question built on ones that had been posed by Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
“I want to pick up on the thread that Justice Kavanaugh was just exploring with you,” said Justice Barrett to Matthew Guarnieri, a Justice Department lawyer. Guarnieri has argued for the government’s interest in keeping the EPA records private under an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Barrett stated: “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. What other factors would a court consider?”
A decision in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service v. Sierra Club is expected before the term ends in late June.
On Wednesday, November 4, the Supreme Court is expected to hear Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. Justice Barrett will participate in the dispute that pits religious rights against nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people.