Supreme Court Drops 1 COVID Safety Measure, Keeps Another

The court's fall 2022 session is due to start next week.

The Supreme Court said it will allow members of the public to return to the court to watch oral arguments in person in its fall 2022 session starting next week, and will also continue sharing an audio livestream of the proceedings.

“Seating for the oral argument sessions will be provided to the public, members of the Supreme Court bar, and press, and Courtroom bar admissions will resume. Masking in the Courtroom for oral arguments will be optional,” the court said in a statement Wednesday.

The court’s new session will be the first time the public can attend the proceedings since March 2020, when the court imposed COVID restrictions.

Meanwhile, another COVID-related change allowing members of the public to livestream oral arguments will continue, the court said. While the court has resisted allowing cameras into the courtroom, it allowed members of the public to livestream audio of the proceedings for the first time in May 2020. Links to those streams and their transcripts will continue to be available on the court’s website.

The court postponed oral arguments in March and April of 2020 because of the pandemic before deciding to conduct the proceedings remotely.

The new term will be the first for President Joe Biden’s Supreme Court pick, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, who replaces now-retired Justice Stephen Breyer.

Biden is due to attend an investiture ceremony for Jackson on Friday alongside Vice President Kamala Harris and both of their spouses. Democrats are celebrating Jackson’s historic appointment ahead of the November elections, which will determine control of both chambers of Congress.

The court, overtaken by a 6-3 conservative supermajority, embroiled itself in controversy during its last session. The June decision overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade right to abortion resulted in several states outlawing or severely restricting the procedure and sparked protests across the country.

The first three cases the court is due to take up on Monday are Sackett v. EPA, which targets Clean Water Act environmental protections; and two squabbles between states over unclaimed financial instruments, Arkansas v. Delaware, and Delaware v. Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

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