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Articles by Austin Sarat, Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science, Amherst College, The Conversation

Coronavirus: Will Courts Continue To Operate, Preserving the Rule of Law?

The coronavirus outbreak is affecting broad swaths of American life, including all levels of government. On March 16 the U.S. Supreme Court took the unusual step of indefinitely postponing oral arguments scheduled for at least the next two weeks.

The court held oral arguments in 2012, when Hurricane Sandy had closed the rest of official Washington. It often continues to do business when other government agencies shut down due to snowstorms. In this latest move, the court’s statement said the justices were taking this action “in keeping with public health precautions recommended in response to COVID-19 … The Court will examine the options for rescheduling those cases in due course in light of the developing circumstances.”

The court said it would continue “to be open for official business,” and, as if caught up in the logic of legal argument, noted that “postponement of argument sessions in light of public health concerns is not unprecedented. The Court postponed scheduled arguments for October 1918 in response to the Spanish flu epidemic. The Court also shortened its argument calendars in August 1793 and August 1798 in ...

 

 

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