Five days after President Donald Trump announced that federal guidance on social distancing would remain in effect until April 30, the Supreme Court announced that its April argument session, which had been scheduled to begin on April 20 and run through April 29, would be postponed. Today’s notice followed the justices’ decision, announced on March 16, to postpone their March argument session in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The justices did not indicate whether or when arguments might resume this term, but they left open the possibility that some of the cases that have been deferred could still be argued this term.
In its three-paragraph press release, the court said that it “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.” Most of the cases slated for argument in March and April are not necessarily time-sensitive – although it’s an extreme example, the dispute at the heart of Texas v. New Mexico, originally set for argument on April 21, is older than three current justices – but at least two groups of cases arguably are: the trio of cases, originally scheduled for argument on March 31, involving efforts by Congress and Manhattan prosecutors to gain access to the president’s financial records; and the pair of cases from Colorado and Washington challenging the constitutionality of “faithless elector” laws, which had been scheduled for argument on April 28.
The court also indicated that it would “consider a range of scheduling options and other alternatives if arguments cannot be held in the Courtroom before the end of the Term.” This could mean that some of the cases scheduled for March and April might be pushed back to the term that begins in October 2020, while others are decided without oral argument; it also at least leaves the door open for the justices to hold oral argument remotely in some cases, as the Supreme Court of Texas plans to do this month.
In any event, the court emphasized, it “will continue to proceed with the resolution of all cases” that have already been argued this term. The justices are expected to issue orders from today’s conference online on Monday morning at 9:30 a.m., followed by opinions in argued cases at 10 a.m.
This post is also published on SCOTUSblog.