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Barrett authors first Supreme Court majority opinion against environmental group

Justice Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettMcConnell, GOP slam Biden's executive order on SCOTUS Progressives give Biden's court reform panel mixed reviews Top GOP super PAC endorses Murkowski amid primary threat MORE on Thursday issued her first majority opinion since joining the Supreme Court in October, siding against an environmental group that sought access to government records.

In the 7-2 ruling, Barrett wrote that the records detailing internal agency deliberations did not need to be turned over under a federal public disclosure law. The five other conservatives and liberal Justice Elena KaganElena KaganSupreme Court says California must allow in-home prayer meetings Progressive group ramps up pressure on Justice Breyer to retire Supreme Court sides with Google in copyright fight against Oracle MORE joined Barrett’s opinion, with liberal justices Stephen BreyerStephen BreyerThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - Congress returns; infrastructure takes center stage NY Times beclowns itself by normalizing court-packing 'to balance the conservative majority' Supreme Court says California must allow in-home prayer meetings MORE and Sonia SotomayorSonia SotomayorSupreme Court says California must allow in-home prayer meetings Progressive group ramps up pressure on Justice Breyer to retire Supreme Court sides with Google in copyright fight against Oracle MORE in dissent.

Barrett, former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump: McConnell 'helpless' to stop Biden from packing court Romney on NRSC awarding Trump: Not 'my preference' McConnell sidesteps Trump calling him 'dumb son of a b----' MORE’s third high court nominee, joined the bench in late October after a fast-tracked confirmation process following the death of liberal stalwart Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgProgressives give Biden's court reform panel mixed reviews Biden will let Breyer decide when to retire, aide says Biden establishes commission to study expanding Supreme Court MORE

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Barrett’s opinion in the case, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service v. Sierra Club, was based on the first oral argument she sat for as a new justice on Nov. 2, a day before the 2020 election.

In an 11-page ruling against Sierra Club, the court found that the draft documents in question were exempt from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which requires public disclosure of certain government documents upon request.

Barrett wrote that the records were shielded under a FOIA exemption that allows agencies to keep internal deliberation under wraps in order to encourage frank discussion among officials.

“To encourage candor, which improves agency decisionmaking, the privilege blunts the chilling effect that accompanies the prospect of disclosure,” Barrett wrote.

The case was brought by the Sierra Club after it was denied documents associated with an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) water intake regulation that the Fish and Wildlife Service initially determined would be harmful to endangered species.

The EPA took that draft opinion under advisement, ultimately drafting a rule the service found would not adversely affect protected species.