Supreme Court postpones oral arguments for the first time in over a century because of coronavirus

Associated Press/Susan WalshA view of the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, March 15, 2019.
  • The Supreme Court will postpone oral arguments in light of the novel coronavirus outbreak, the court announced Monday.
  • The main building will remain open for “official business” but is closed to the public. The court is also implementing more work-from-home options for employees in accordance with federal guidance.
  • This is the first time in 102 years the Supreme Court had to push back oral arguments because of a public health crisis; the last time was in October 1918 during the Spanish flu epidemic.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Supreme Court has postponed oral arguments amid concerns over the coronavirus, the court announced on Monday.

“In keeping with public health precautions recommended in response to COVID-19, the Supreme Court is postponing the oral arguments currently scheduled for the March session (March 23-25 and March 30-April 1),” the press release said. “The Court will examine the options for rescheduling those cases in due course in light of the developing circumstances.”

In the meantime, the court will hold its regularly scheduled conference on Friday, and some justices may join it remotely by telephone, the release said. The Supreme Court’s building will also remain open for “official business” but closed to the public. Monday’s announcement does not affect filing deadlines, the release said.

To reduce the number of people in the building however, the court will allow for more remote working in accordance with guidance from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

This is the first time in 102 years that the Supreme Court has postponed oral arguments because of a public health crisis.

In October 1918, the court postponed arguments in response to the Spanish flu epidemic. The court also amended its schedule for arguments in August 1793 and August 1798 because of the yellow fever outbreak.

The World Health Organisation classified the novel coronavirus as a pandemic on Wednesday. To date, the disease has infected nearly 175,000 people around the world and killed more than 6,700.

In the US, at least 3,902 people in 49 states plus Washington, DC, and three territories have tested positive, and at least 66 patients have died.

The Trump administration has been widely criticised for what critics say is a lukewarm response to a rapidly spreading pandemic. President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on Friday after weeks of downplaying the risks of the public health crisis.

The move will trigger the Stafford Act and open up access to $US50 billion in federal money to be allocated to states and municipalities.

Cities and states across the country have also implemented strict restrictions and shut down public places in the absence of federal guidance.

New York – which is a hotspot for the outbreak in the US – Los Angeles, Massachusetts, Ohio, and others have begun lockdown procedures. New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey jointly moved to ban gatherings of more than 50 people.

On Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for the Army Corps of Engineers to deploy to the state and build more hospital beds.

“This is a disaster waiting to happen,” Cuomo said on “Good Morning America.”

“There has been no country that has handled this without a national response,” he added.

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