Supreme Court to continue phone hearings due to Covid-19

A man bikes past the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, June 25, 2020.

Al Drago | Reuters

The Supreme Court said Friday that it will continue hearing arguments in cases remotely over the telephone for at least the rest of the year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Yet it raised the prospect it could return to the courtroom in January.

That announcement means the Supreme Court will remotely hear arguments Nov. 10 in a case that could result in the elimination of the Affordable Care Act health care law, also known as Obamacare.

The decision to continue holding arguments over the phone was expected.

The high court started hearing cases remotely last spring, as the Covid-19 pandemic spread throughout the United States. The hearings can be heard by the public on media livestreams online.

“The Court will hear all oral arguments scheduled for the November and December sessions by telephone conference, following the same format used for the October teleconference arguments,” the court’s press office said in a statement.

“In keeping with public health guidance in response to COVID-19, the Justices and counsel will all participate remotely. The Court building remains open for official business only and closed to the public until further notice.”

The statement added that, “The Court will continue to closely monitor public health guidance in determining plans for the January argument session.”

The Supreme Court began its current term this week. The court currently has only eight justices, because of the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg last month.

President Donald Trump, who is facing a strong re-election challenge from Democratic nominee Joe Biden, has nominated the conservative appeals court judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace the liberal Ginsburg.

The White House event at which Trump formally announced Barrett’s nomination two weeks ago is considered to be a superspreader event, because it was followed by positive tests for coronavirus by multiple attendees, including the president himself and first lady Melania Trump.

Other attendees who tested positive include White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and two assistant press secretaries, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, ex-Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway, and the Rev. John Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame University.

Two Republican senators who sit on the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, Mike Lee of Utah and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, also were diagnosed Covid-19 after attending the event.

The Judiciary Committee is responsible for reviewing Barrett’s nomination before sending it to the full Senate for consideration.

Confirmation hearings for Coney Barrett are set to start Monday.

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