(CNN)She is only 48 and could easily serve more than three decades on the Supreme Court. But no matter how long Justice Amy Coney Barrett sits on the bench, the conditions under which she started are not likely to fade soon from the nation’s memory.
Barrett begins her Supreme Court tenure one week before Election Day after a rushed appointment and amid controversy from risky White House ceremonies. She faces a raft of voting-related appeals, along with a notable absence of bond-building rituals with colleagues because of Covid-19.
That complex dynamic is likely to shape Barrett’s immediate image in the public eye and perhaps influence how she approaches cases and the eight other justices.
Her Senate vote of 52-48 was one of the closest in history and her benefactor, Donald Trump, is one of the most divisive presidents ever. Barrett’s appointment, to succeed the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was pushed through the Republican-controlled Senate in a mere month.
Her sheer presence on a new 6-3, conservative-liberal bench could transform the law in America for a generation, affecting abortion and religious rights, LGBTQ protections, and the scope of federal regulatory control over the environment, workplace safety and consumer protection.
And Trump made it plain that he wanted Barrett in place quickly because the high court could decide a crucial case or cases that would affect the outcome of the election between him and former vice president Joe Biden. Already, several challenges to voting rules in key states such as Pennsylvania and North Carolina are pending before the court.