Supreme Court will return to the courtroom and hold oral arguments in person

Supreme Court will return to the courtroom and hold oral arguments in person
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The Supreme Court announced Wednesday that it will hold oral arguments in its courtroom beginning next month, returning after more than a year of conference calls due to the Covid pandemic.

Justices, lawyers, essential personnel and journalists will be allowed in the courtroom and the live audio feed that has become a staple of the telephonic oral arguments will continue, the court said. Sessions will not be open to the general public.

Justices are slated to hear a major Second Amendment case on November 3, and they will also consider a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade in a case concerning a Mississippi law that bans most abortion after 15 weeks. That case has yet to be scheduled.

The court’s announcement comes after Covid-19 forced the justices to take the unprecedented step of holding arguments by phone and changing its format to give each justice an allotted amount of time to ask questions.

The measures undertaken during the pandemic received mixed reviews from advocates, many who chafed as the justices sometimes moved slowly through their questions, launching their inquiries in order of seniority. The sessions lacked the traditional give and take where a justice could jump in at any point to ask for more information or to test a lawyer’s premise.

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The public was surprised when Justice Clarence Thomas, who rarely asked questions during the traditional format, jumped in during the telephonic arguments and played an active role under the new system.

The move to allow a live stream of the sessions was widely praised, opening up court procedures to anyone who wanted to listen instead of just those lucky enough to get a seat in the august courtroom.

The new procedures will be in effect for at least three months, the court said.

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