Barrett’s first majority opinion as SCOTUS justice deals blow to environmental group

With her nomination and confirmation last year, Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett became the third member of the nation’s highest court to be added by former President Donald Trump.

This week, the court’s newest justice wrote her first majority opinion.

Details of the case

Barrett overcame a contentious Senate confirmation hearing as Democrats overwhelmingly argued that the president should not fill a Supreme Court vacancy so close to Election Day.

In the end, however, her nomination prevailed on the strength of a GOP majority in the Senate — and now she has her first majority opinion under her belt.

According to The Hill, the case at hand was U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service v. Sierra Club, which was the first oral argument that Barrett sat for as a Supreme Court justice in November.

For its part, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had submitted an opinion to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) arguing that one of its proposed regulations related to water intake would cause harm to certain endangered species. After taking the opinion into consideration, the EPA drafted a rule that it believed would not be harmful to wildlife.

It was the Sierra Club that brought forth a lawsuit, arguing for access to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s advisory opinion. That request was denied, so the Sierra Club filed again under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Barrett makes her mark

The nation’s highest court was asked to determine whether the Sierra Club — and the public in general — has the right to see the opinion upon which the EPA based its regulation. In a 7–2 ruling, justices found that the answer to that question is no.

Liberal justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor were the two dissenters.

Barrett’s 11-page ruling argued that it is important to allow such documents to be kept under wraps, explaining: “To encourage candor, which improves agency decisionmaking, the privilege blunts the chilling effect that accompanies the prospect of disclosure.”

While this was her first majority opinion, Reuters noted that Barrett has already served an influential role during her short tenure on the bench.

Her vote in favor of New York houses of worship tilted the ruling against the state’s restrictive COVID-19 shutdowns that prevented large congregations of worshippers.

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