Nov. 3 (UPI) — Newly confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett officially began her tenure on the Supreme Court Tuesday, participating in oral arguments in a case examining life sentences issued to juvenile offenders.
Barrett, who was sworn in last week just days before Tuesday’s general election, questioned attorneys in the case of Jones vs. Mississippi, which challenges the constitutionality of such sentences without first determining if the juvenile defendant is incapable of rehabilitation.
Chief Justice John Roberts noted the occasion at the opening of the teleconference session, saying, “Justice Barrett, we wish you a long and happy career in our common calling.”
During arguments, Barrett questioned attorney David Shapiro, representing defendant Brett Jones, who received a life sentence without parole for murdering his grandfather with a kitchen knife in 2004 when he was 15 years old.
Barrett also questioned Krissy Nobile, deputy solicitor general for the state of Mississippi, which is seeking to uphold its life sentencing of Jones.
The Supreme Court has previously ruled that life sentences without parole are constitutional for juveniles only when a defendant is found to be “permanently incorrigible.” Jones’ attorneys argue he was never afforded a “meaningful opportunity” to show that he wasn’t permanently incorrigible.
Barrett was confirmed by the Senate in a 52-48 party-line vote last month to fill the seat vacated by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September.
Democrats and other critics denounced the move to quickly confirm Barrett as a politically motivated attempt to cement a 6-3 conservative majority on the high court before Tuesday’s election.
Barrett has so far not participated in any of the court’s election-related decisions.