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SCOTUS Faces Important Issues 10/27 07:12


   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Amy Coney Barrett's first votes on the Supreme Court 
could include two big topics affecting the man who appointed her.

   The court is weighing a plea from President Donald Trump to prevent the 
Manhattan district attorney from acquiring his tax returns. It is also 
considering appeals from the Trump campaign and Republicans to shorten the 
deadline for receiving and counting absentee ballots in the battleground states 
of North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

   It's not certain Barrett will take part in any of these issues, but she will 
make that call.

   Barrett was confirmed Monday by the Senate in a 52-48 virtual party-line 
vote. She is expected to begin work as a justice on Tuesday after taking the 
second of two oaths required of judges by federal law. No justice has assumed 
office so close to a presidential election or immediately confronted issues so 
directly tied to the incumbent president's political and personal fortunes.

   At 48, she's the youngest justice since Clarence Thomas joined the court in 
1991 at age 43.

   Other election-related issues are pending at the high court, which next week 
also will hear a clash of LGBTQ rights and religious freedoms. The fate of the 
Affordable Care Act is on the agenda on Nov. 10, and Trump himself last week 
reiterated his opposition to the Obama-era law. "I hope they end it," he said 
in an interview with CBS News' "60 Minutes."

   On Friday, Barrett, the most open opponent of abortion rights to join the 
court in decades, also could be called upon to weigh in on Mississippi's 
15-week abortion ban. The state is appealing lower court rulings invalidating 
the ban. Abortion opponents in Pittsburgh also are challenging a so-called 
bubble zone that prevents protesters from getting too close to abortion clinics.

   The court put off acting on both cases before Barrett joined the court, 
without offering any explanation in the Mississippi case. It ordered Pittsburgh 
to file a response to the appeal filed by the protesters, who call themselves 
sidewalk counselors.

   It's not clear that the public will know how Barrett voted in the two 
abortion cases because the court typically doesn't make the vote counts public 
when it is considering whether to grant full review to cases.

   Barrett declined to commit to Democratic demands that she step aside from 
any cases on controversial topics, including a potential post-election dispute 
over the presidential results.

   Barrett is joining the court at an unusual moment. The justices are meeting 
remotely by telephone because of the coronavirus pandemic, both for their 
private conferences and public argument sessions at least through the end of 
2020. The public can listen to the arguments as they take place, a change also 
resulting from the court's response to the pandemic.

   After her first private conference with her new colleagues on Friday, two 
weeks of arguments begin on Monday. In an institution that pays strict 
attention to seniority, Barrett will go last in the private and public sessions.

   As she settles into her new office at the court, Barrett will be joined by 
four law clerks, usually recent law school graduates who have experience 
working for federal judges.

   When the court reopens to the public and the justices return to the 
courtroom, Barrett is expected to assume several duties reserved for the 
court's junior justice. She will be a member of the committee that oversees the 
court's public cafeteria, and the person who takes notes and answers the door 
when someone knocks during the justices' private conferences.

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