Precedent, recusal, Roe: A court nomination viewer's guide

FILE - In this Oct. 1, 2020, file photo Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett, listens as Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., speaks during their meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington. A scant two weeks after her nomination, Judge Amy Coney Barrett goes before a Senate committee thats bitterly split along partisan lines over whether the Supreme Court vacancy created by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburgs death should be filled now or should await the winner of the Nov. 3 presidential election. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, Pool, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

WASHINGTON – A scant two weeks after her nomination, Judge Amy Coney Barrett goes before a Senate committee that's bitterly split along partisan lines over whether the Supreme Court vacancy created by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death should be filled now or should await the winner of the Nov. 3 presidential election. The Senate Judiciary Committee's hearings are taking place on an accelerated timeline because President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans want her on the bench by Election Day. Adding to the swirl of politics around the nomination is the coronavirus pandemic and the role it might play. Barrett was introduced as the nominee at a Rose Garden ceremony linked to a cluster of virus cases, including those of Trump and his wife, Melania.

Viewers should expect to see the 48-year-old Barrett portrayed by Republicans as a principled jurist and person of faith in the mode of her mentor, conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, and someone who will decide cases based on the law, not her policy preferences. Democrats will spend a lot of time talking about the unseemly rush to fill Ginsburg's seat. But they also will label Barrett a results-oriented conservative whose ascension to the high court would entrench a conservative majority bent on undoing abortion rights, loosening gun restrictions and turning back the clock on environmental regulations and anti-discrimination laws.

Lawmakers know the public is watching, but as the hearing gets going and lawmakers seek to probe the nominee’s views, they often slip into using legal jargon and refer to past Supreme Court cases in shorthand. It can sound as though they’re talking in code. Expect senators to use these terms at Barrett’s hearing, starting Monday:

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ROE V. WADE, PLANNED PARENTHOOD V. CASEY

These cases from 1973 and 1992, respectively, are the two main decisions on abortion rights. Barrett is the most open anti-abortion nominee to the Supreme Court in decades. She is certain to be asked repeatedly whether the cases were decided correctly, and whether they should be overturned, She’s not likely to answer either question during the hearings. Barrett signed an anti-abortion newspaper ad in 2006, was a member of Notre Dame's Faculty for Life and has cast two anti-abortion votes as an appellate judge.

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