In a coup for President Donald Trump and the Republican Party, the Senate voted to confirm the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court on Monday just eight days before election day.
Justice Barrett’s ascension to the apex court gives ideological conservatives a 6-3 majority, potentially shifting the balance of the court’s verdicts on major issues such as guns rights, abortion, immigration and the environment.
Here is a look at some of the high profile cases that the court is set to hear this autumn, and in which Justice Barrett could now cast a decisive vote:
Trump tax case:
The justices are weighing Trump's emergency plea for the court to prevent the Manhattan District Attorney from acquiring his tax returns.
In July, the Supreme Court voting 7-2 that Mr Trump’s financial records could be examined by prosecutors while rejecting his claims of total immunity while in office. The court further ruled that Mr Trump is not entitled to any kind of heightened standard that is otherwise unavailable to an ordinary citizen.
The justices sent the case back to the lower court so that the President could make more targeted objections regarding the scope of the subpoena.
Mr Trump’s lawyers have since attempted to argue that the request for his financial records was based in part on harassment.
The battle is now back with the Supreme Court. The justices could deny the latest request from Trump’s lawyers to block the subpoena, but even then documents will be shielded from public release because of grand jury secrecy rules.
Mail-in voting deadline extension:
The Supreme Court has been asked to weigh in on mail-in voting deadlines set in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Wisconsin. State leaders are scrambling to devise Election Day plans that will allow their constituents to vote without putting millions of people at risk of contracting coronavirus.
However, the president has frequently lashed out at the idea that the general election will be conducted largely through mail-in voting, and has claimed that such an election would lead to massive voter fraud, allow for foreign interference, and is indicative of a Democratic plot to steal the election.
Justice Barrett, therefore, could be a decisive vote in Republican appeals of orders extending the deadlines for absentee ballots in North Carolina and Pennsylvania in particular.
The fate of the Affordable Care Act:
On 10 November, the court is expected to hear a Trump-backed challenge to the Obama-era Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, through which tens of millions of Americans have access to health insurance. Mr Trump has failed in repeated legislative attempts to replace the ACA with his own healthcare plan, and has previously indicated that his instalment of a ninth justice could end the deadlock.
In a statement, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden tied Justice Barrett's nomination to the court to the Republican effort to pull down the ACA. He called her confirmation "rushed and unprecedented" and a stark reminder to Americans that "your vote matters."
During several days of public testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Justice Barrett was careful not to disclose how she would rule on any individual case.
She presented herself as a neutral arbiter and suggested, "It's not the law of Amy."
The case over the law will be argued one week after the election, during which the court will determine whether or not it was lawful for the ACA to enshrine in law the requirement for an individual to acquire healthcare insurance - the so-called “individual coverage mandate”. If it deems it unlawful, the ACA could be struck down in its entirety.
Mississippi abortion case:
As soon as this Friday, the justices will consider whether or not to hear a case that could directly challenge the precedent set by the 1973 landmark Supreme Court decision in Roe v Wade, a ruling that made abortion legal across the country.
Earlier this month, Justice Barrett said Roe v Wade does not meet the criteria of a “super precedent” and therefore is not settled law, signalling she believes it could be overturned.
On the day after the presidential election, the justices will hear a challenge to Philadelphia’s exclusion of a faith-based agency from its foster-care system because the agency will not work with same-sex couples. It is a religious liberty case that was brought over whether a Catholic social services agency that receives taxpayer funding can legally discriminate against same-sex couples to be foster parents.
The nomination of Justice Barrett in the Supreme Court received widespread backlash in part because she served for nearly three years on the board of private Christian schools that effectively barred admission to children of same-sex parents and made it plain that openly gay and lesbian teachers weren’t welcome in the classroom.
The policies that discriminated against LGBTQ+ people and their children were in place for years at Trinity Schools Inc, both before Justice Barrett joined the board in 2015 and during the time she served.