Back in black: U.S. Supreme Court returns from COVID-19 telework

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WASHINGTON, Oct 4 (Reuters) – U.S. Supreme Court justices are set to don their black robes and sit as soon as extra behind a mahogany bench of their grand courtroom on Monday as they resume in-person oral arguments for the primary time since COVID-19 pandemic disruptions began final 12 months.

In a tentative step towards normalcy, the 9 justices might be joined by legal professionals, courtroom employees and journalists of their spacious column-lined courtroom as they start their new nine-month time period. No members of the general public might be current.

The courtroom constructing has been closed to the general public since March 2020 because of the pandemic, with the justices listening to oral arguments through teleconference.

In an indication of how planning throughout the pandemic is continually in flux, preparations for the brand new time period had been disrupted on Friday when Justice Brett Kavanaugh examined constructive for the coronavirus, though the courtroom stated he had no COVID-19 signs. Kavanaugh will take part remotely on Monday, the courtroom stated.

Written steering for legal professionals requires them to be examined for the coronavirus however there is no such thing as a vaccine requirement.

The pandemic has compelled some adjustments upon the tradition-bound courtroom. Live audio of oral arguments, a apply the courtroom had rejected till the pandemic made it a necessity in May 2020, is about to proceed within the new time period.

The oral argument format additionally has been tweaked to permit for a lightning spherical of questions by every justice, a holdover from how the courtroom performed teleconference arguments.

The teleconference arguments had been extra structured than the standard rough-and-tumble method during which justices competed with one another to get a phrase in. Justice Clarence Thomas, who famously nearly by no means spoke throughout in-person oral arguments, posed queries repeatedly throughout teleconference arguments.

The courtroom, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, returns to motion at a time when it’s coming underneath shut scrutiny after the justices on Sept. 1 allowed a restrictive Texas regulation that bans abortion after six weeks of being pregnant to enter impact.

Among the instances the justices are as a result of hear throughout their new time period is a serious problem to abortion rights involving Mississippi’s bid to revive a Republican-backed state regulation that bans the process after 15 weeks of being pregnant. Mississippi has requested the courtroom to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

They are also set to listen to a problem backed by the National Rifle Association to New York state’s restrictions on individuals carrying hid handguns in public in a case that would additional undermine firearms management efforts nationally.

The courtroom hears arguments in two instances on Monday, one a felony case involving a person convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm and the opposite a dispute between two states, Mississippi and Tennessee, over water rights.

The courtroom’s time period runs via the top of subsequent June.

All 9 justices, three of whom are over age 70, have been vaccinated in opposition to COVID-19, which has confirmed to be notably harmful among the many aged.

Reporting by Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham and Scott Malone

The United States Supreme Court in Washington, U.S. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

A general view of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., U.S. June 25, 2021. REUTERS/Ken Cedeno

The United States Supreme Court in Washington, U.S. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein