Three days before the justices are scheduled to return to the courtroom for the first time since March 2020, the Supreme Court announced on Friday morning that Justice Brett Kavanaugh has tested positive for COVID-19. The 56-year-old justice has no symptoms and has been fully vaccinated since January, the press release from the court’s Public Information Office indicated. Kavanaugh’s wife, Ashley, and their two daughters – who are also fully vaccinated – have tested negative, the court said.
When the justices take the bench on Monday, it will be a very different scene from the last time they heard oral arguments there. The court’s building remains closed to the public, and only the justices, essential court staff, the arguing lawyers and their co-counsel, and the small group of reporters with full-time credentials to cover the court will be permitted in the courtroom.
On Sept. 27, the court issued a list of COVID-19 protocols for lawyers arguing before the court this fall. Among other things, both arguing lawyers and their co-counsel must take a COVID-19 test on the morning before oral argument. Lawyers who test positive for COVID-19 are still expected to participate in oral argument by phone. Although the court has not previously provided many details about COVID-19 protocols for the justices themselves, Friday’s press release offers a glimpse at the court’s testing procedures. It indicates that all of the justices, including Kavanaugh, tested negative when they were tested on Monday morning before they met for their private conference. Kavanaugh was tested again on Thursday in anticipation of Friday morning’s formal investiture ceremony for Justice Amy Coney Barrett. He learned that the test was positive on Thursday evening.
Kavanaugh will not attend Barrett’s investiture. The court did not indicate whether Kavanaugh would participate in oral arguments in person on Monday morning.
This post is also published on SCOTUSblog.