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Pandemic Forces SCOTUS to Take up Unprecedented Oral Arguments Protocol

There are few institutions, if any, that have escaped the wrath of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s impacts, in some ways, has quite literally made history—New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, in some form or another has been held continuously for almost 260 years and the Boston Marathon, for the first time in its 124-year history, has been postponed. All of that changed when the COVID-19 coronavirus ravaged every corner of the U.S. and much of the globe.

supreme court 544218 640smallThe Supreme Court of the United States, too, will be confronted with a COVID-related first; it will hear oral arguments by telephone conference during the course of several days in early May. According to the Supreme Court, cases previously postponed will feature arguments on May 4, 5, 6, and then on May 11, 12 and 13.

“In keeping with public health guidance in response to COVID-19, the Justices and counsel will all participate remotely. The Court anticipates providing a live audio feed of these arguments to news media. Details will be shared as they become available,” according to the Supreme Court’s announcement.

Per reports from CNN, the move will bring some relative transparency to the normally insulated Court. However, there will be no video images of any of the justices during the arguments. The court also announced that in addition to the newly announced plan to hear arguments remotely, the Court Building continues to remain open for official business. The Court Building, though, will be closed to the public until further notice, and most Court personnel will be teleworking.


CSPAN @cspan Apr 13

"C-SPAN is committing to airing live each of the Supreme Court's just-announced schedule of oral arguments for May, which will be held by teleconference. #SCOTUS"

Robert Barnes @scotusreporter Apr 13
"BREAKING: Supreme Court will begin holding oral arguments via teleconference, starting May 4. Trump financial records case among them"

The Clerk’s Office will be assigning argument dates, pending the availability of counsel, with some already on the calendar. According to the Court, the following cases will feature remote oral arguments:

  • 18-9526, McGirt v. Oklahoma
  • 19-46, United States Patent and Trademark Office v. B.V.
  • 19-177, Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International, Inc.
  • 19-267, Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, and 19-348, St. James School v. Biel
  • 19-431, Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania, and 19-454, Trump v. Pennsylvania
  • 19-465, Chiafalo v. Washington
  • 19-518, Colorado Department of State v. Baca
  • 19-631, Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants, Inc.
  • 19-635, Trump v. Vance
  • 19-715, Trump v. Mazars USA, LLP, and 19-760, Trump v. Deutsche Bank AG

Beckett, a legal group involved in a number of religious liberty cases, including three of the above listed—Little Sisters of the Poor v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru and St. James Catholic School v. Biel—will be heard on Wednesday, May 6 and Monday, May 11, respectively.

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