Supreme Court Will Hold Arguments by Phone to Start New Term


The U.S. Supreme Court said it will hold arguments by telephone when its new term opens next month, as the Covid-19 outbreak continues to force changes in the court’s longstanding traditions.

The court, which heard arguments remotely for the first time in May, said the justices will follow the same approach for the two-week session that starts Oct. 5. As it did in May, the court will release a live audio feed.

The court said in a press release it will “closely monitor public health guidance” before deciding how to handle its arguments in November and December.

The news about the court’s plans came a day before a planned video tribute to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg by the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. Although Ginsburg, 87, will be receiving the organization’s Liberty Medal for her work, she won’t be participating in the Thursday event, Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said.

Ginsburg is a five-time cancer patient. The health of the liberal justice has been the subject of intense interest because of the prospect the President Donald Trump could appoint her successor if she stepped down.

Arberg said she didn’t have any updates on Ginsburg’s health status.

The National Constitution Center event “was always intended to be a pre-recorded tribute,” Arberg said. “There was never a plan for her to be a participant in it.”

Coronavirus Risk

Two other justices, Stephen Breyer and Neil Gorusch, are set to appear publicly in events commemorating Constitution Day Thursday.

Ginsburg and Breyer, 82, are among the six justices who are 65 or older. Older people are at increased risk of dying should they become infected with the coronavirus.

The court said it will use the same format for the October arguments as in May, when the justices asked questions in seniority order in three-minute increments. The court’s building will remain closed to the public.

The new term will start on the first Monday of October, in keeping with tradition. The caseload includes a multibillion dollar copyright clash between Oracle Corp. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google and a Republican-led effort to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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