WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will postpone upcoming oral arguments due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The move is the latest response to the pandemic and comes as the justices — two of whom are in their 80s, including Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who turned 87 on Sunday — are in the midst of a blockbuster term.
The session, set to begin on March 23, included the consolidated cases on President Donald Trump’s financial records that were scheduled to be heard March 31, a significant copyright dispute between Google and Oracle and a major case regarding sexual assault in the military.
“In keeping with public health precautions” a statement from the Court’s public information officer said, “the Supreme Court is postponing the oral arguments currently scheduled for the March session.” The Court will “examine the options for rescheduling” in “light of the developing circumstances.”
Even if they don’t sit for oral arguments, the justices will likely still release opinions, although there is no guidance so far on that schedule. Outstanding cases include those concerning immigration, abortion, the Second Amendment and LGBT rights.
There is precedent for postponement, although it is very rare. The court postponed sessions in October 1918 at the time of the Spanish flu. According to the Court’s statement, it also shortened its argument calendars in August 1793 and August 1798 in response to yellow fever outbreaks.
Justices are still schedule to meet behind closed doors Friday for their regular closed-door conference, although the Court said that “some justices” may participate remotely by telephone. The building will continue to be open for official business, but it is closed to the public. Filing deadlines will not be extended.
Under normal circumstances, the court issues its final opinions by the last week of June, but there is nothing to stop the justices from going into the summer. If they did want to stick to the late June deadline, they could add argument days in April or May. As things stand, the last argument day is on April 29.