The Supreme Court said on Friday that it will postpone the remaining two weeks of oral arguments that were set to begin on April 20 and it is considering rescheduling some of the 20 or so cases that it has had to put off so far in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The delayed cases include arguments scheduled for this week on attempts by Democrats to obtain President Donald Trump’s financial records.
“The Court will consider rescheduling some cases from the March and April sessions before the end of the Term, if circumstances permit in light of public health and safety guidance at that time,” Kathy Arberg, a court spokeswoman, said in a statement. “The Court will consider a range of scheduling options and other alternatives if arguments cannot be held in the Courtroom before the end of the Term.”
Regarding oral arguments, Arberg did not specify which of the postponed cases might still be argued this term. Some of the cases are more time sensitive than others, including two concerning Trump’s bid to shield his financial documents from release. Another case that might be under consideration concerns so called faithless electors — something the justices may wish to decide before the next election.
The court was also set to hear a copyright dispute between Google and Oracle and a religious liberty case brought by the Little Sisters of the Poor.
According to the statement the justices will release opinions for all the cases that have been argued so far this term. They include blockbuster issues concerning LGBT rights, abortion, the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program and the 2nd Amendment.
So far the court is already behind on its schedule. According to Adam Feldman, writing for Scotusblog, “through March of this term, the court has decided fewer cases by signed opinion than it has since at least before the Spanish flu closed the court’s doors in 1918.”
Arberg said that while the court remains open for official business “most Court personnel are teleworking.”
Gabe Roth, executive director of Fix the Court, blasted the delay.
“This is getting ridiculous. If the Supreme Court can conduct its weekly conferences remotely, which it has been doing for weeks, it can conduct its remaining arguments remotely and allow the public to listen in,” Roth said in a statement.
The Supreme Court has resisted changes to its traditions, including in-person oral arguments, and any efforts to allow oral arguments to be televised.
But earlier Friday, the judicial conference announced that the public and the media will be able to access certain criminal proceedings conducted in federal court via teleconference or video conference during the coronavirus crisis. The order only pertains to district and appellate courts and not the Supreme Court.
Arberg has not specified if the court would allow any kind of live audio or teleconferencing of its arguments.
This story has been updated with additional details of the Court’s action.
CORRECTION: This article has been corrected to accurately describe the Google and Oracle dispute.