Supreme Court Suspends Arguments Amid Coronavirus Fears

Six justices considered 'at risk' given age

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March 16, 2020

The Supreme Court postponed its March argument session on Monday in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Among the cases scheduled for the upcoming session are three disputes over subpoenas for President Donald Trump's financial records. The sitting was scheduled to run from March 23 to April 1.

"In keeping with public health precautions recommended in response to COVID-19, the Supreme Court is postponing the oral arguments currently scheduled for the March session," Court spokeswoman Kathleen Arberg said in a statement. "The Court will examine the options for rescheduling those cases in due course in light of the developing circumstances."

"The Court is expanding remote working capabilities to reduce the number of employees in the building, consistent with public health guidance," the statement adds.

Despite Monday's extraordinary announcement, much of the Court's business will continue as normal. The justices will meet in a private conference to discuss petitions and other internal business on Friday. Some justices may participate remotely, according to Monday's statement. The Court will also release orders in pending cases on March 23.

The justices can also continue reviewing cases and preparing opinions, Monday's postponement notwithstanding. Filing deadlines will remain in place for lawyers with cases before the Court. However, it's not clear if the Court will announce decisions in the coming weeks. The justices have handed down just 12 opinions since the current term began in October.

Six of the nine justices are considered at risk of death or serious complications should they contract the virus. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer are in their 80s, while Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Sonia Sotomayor are over 65.

The Court has not yet announced when it will hear arguments in the March cases. Other matters scheduled for the March sitting involve two Catholic elementary schools and the scope of an exemption to employment discrimination claims, as well as an $8 billion copyright dispute between Google and Oracle Corp.

A final argument session, from April 20 to April 29, was not disturbed by Monday's announcement.

The Supreme Court building closed to the public on Thursday.

The Supreme Court has not canceled a sitting due to a public health crisis in over a century. The last time the justices delayed scheduled arguments was in October 1918, as the Spanish flu ravaged the United States. Outbreaks of yellow fever prompted early recesses twice in the 1790s.

Published under: Supreme Court