Justice Amy Coney Barrett, appointed to her post by former President Donald Trump as a replacement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has given her first Supreme Court majority opinion. Barrett denied an environmental group from gaining access to government records.
This is the first case Barrett heard after being appointed Supreme Court Justice. The 11-page 7 to 2 opinion stated that certain draft documents of the government need not be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The two dissenters were liberal justices, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer.
The case, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service v. Sierra Club, are about the environmental group Sierra Club requesting “draft biological opinions” of the federal government from 2013 under FOIA. The documents discussed structures used to cool industrial equipment and the potential harm they pose to wildlife. Barrett said that the FOIA could not provide documents generated as part of a government agency’s discussions about a policy.
Moreover, the Supreme Court Justice pointed out that Sierra Club requested draft documents that do not come under the obligation of being publicly released. “Because the decision-makers neither approved the drafts nor sent them to the EPA, they are best described not as draft biological opinions but as drafts of draft biological opinions… While the drafts may have had the practical effect of provoking EPA to revise its rule, the privilege applies because the Services did not treat the drafts as final,” she wrote in her opinion.
The group raised concerns that such a viewpoint might encourage officials to stamp every document as ‘draft’ to prevent them from being released to the public. However, Barrett said that if enough evidence exists to prove that the agency has hidden a “functionally final decision” in one of the draft documents, such documents can be made available under FOIA.
The Supreme Court remanded the case to the lower court and has asked to see if documents can be segregated in a manner that some of them be made disclosable under the Freedom of Information Act. However, confidential documents will inevitably not be released.
A conservative voice
Even before the spot of Supreme Court Justice opened up, Barrett was already a favorite of many conservatives to take up the post. In fact, Donald Trump had specifically mentioned that he was “saving her” for this task. After Ginsburg’s death, Barrett’s appointment was fast-tracked, taking just over a week.
Barrett is considered to be a staunch conservative. In fact, Jonathan Turley, a professor of law at George Washington University, points out that Garrett is basically the “ultimate deliverable for conservative votes.” Barrett’s confirmation at the Senate went along partisan lines with a vote of 52 to 48.
Garrett had earned criticism from pro-abortion and LGBTQ groups due to her stance. Her ties to the church group, ‘People of Praise,’ triggered controversy after it came to light that the group mandates its schools to teach that sexual relations must only occur between heterosexual people. One LGBTQ group called Garrett’s appointment as Supreme Court Justice an “absolute threat” to their rights.
However, Barrett’s pro-life stance on abortion has won her many fans among the young conservative community. “Justice Amy Barrett is a role model for me because she exemplifies what a true pro-life feminist looks like and can achieve…”
“She embraces her femininity, fertility, and motherhood. She earned her education, entered into the workforce, and is now appointed to the highest Court of the land!” Melanie Salazar, a student at the University of Texas in San Antonio, told Breitbart.