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Supreme Court to permit public at hearings for first time since Covid

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A crosswalk signal is seen outside the U.S. Supreme Court constructing in Washington, U.S., June 27, 2022.

Elizabeth Frantz | Reuters

The Supreme Court starting Monday will allow members of the general public to attend oral argument hearings for the primary time because the Covid-19 lockdown of March 2020, the court’s press office confirmed in an announcement Wednesday.

The resumption of public access will coincide with the start of the high court’s October term, when the court’s justices are on account of hear arguments in three cases.

And the reopening will come a yr after the court resumed in-person oral arguments after greater than a yr of conducting those sessions remotely.

For the past yr, courtroom access for those hearings had been limited to the court’s nine justices, essential court personnel, lawyers for parties in cases being argued, and journalists with full-time press credentials from the court.

Earlier this month, Chief Justice John Roberts said public access would resume soon during an address to tenth Circuit Bench and Bar Conference in Colorado.

In its announcement Wednesday, the court’s press office said, “Masking within the Courtroom for oral arguments will probably be optional.”

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But apart from oral arguments, the Supreme Court constructing in Washington, D.C., “will otherwise be closed to the general public until further notice,” the office said.

Nevertheless, the court will proceed offering a live audio feed for oral arguments, a practice that was instituted after the court barred public access to the hearings on account of Covid.

The Supreme Court on March 16, 2020, said that it could postpone oral arguments that had been scheduled for the next two weeks that month on account of “public health precautions advisable in response to Covid-19.”

The court then postponed oral arguments in April 2020 for a similar reason. In May 2020, the court heard oral arguments via telephone conference for quite a lot of cases that had been previously scheduled for arguments.

When the court began hearing oral arguments for its October 2020 term, it did so via telephone conference.

In-person oral arguments with no public access resumed within the October 2021 term.

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