Supreme Court kicks off new term with first in-person arguments since start of Covid pandemic – .

Supreme Court kicks off new term with first in-person arguments since start of Covid pandemic – .

Pedestrians walk past the United States Supreme Court in Washington, DC, the United States on Sunday, June 20, 2021.
Stefani Reynolds | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The Supreme Court resumed in-person argument on Monday for the first time in 19 months, launching a politically charged new mandate that is expected to include cases on abortion and gun rights.
The judges, back in their imposing Washington courtroom after the coronavirus pandemic forced them to hold proceedings by teleconference, have prompted lawyers to argue in two cases – a dispute over the ownership of groundwater that cross the Mississippi-Tennessee border and a criminal burglary case.

Eight of the nine judges sat on the bench itself; only judge Brett Kavanaugh, who tested positive for Covid on Thursday, participated remotely from his home.

Monday’s session also marked the first time Judge Amy Coney Barrett, the court’s newest member and the third person appointed by former President Donald Trump, heard arguments in person.

However, a number of pandemic-related adjustments to court procedures were still in effect.

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The building has remained closed to the public, its status since March 2020. Only judges, lawyers, essential staff and journalists with full-time press titles were allowed to sit in the courtroom.

The audio of the arguments was again streamed live online, a historic change implemented during the pandemic. Previously, audio recordings were only accessible to the public at the end of each argument week.

The court’s approach to cross-examination also resembled more of the pre-pandemic format, in which any judge could step in at any time to question attorneys who often struggled to make their case amid a roadblock of interruptions.

When cases were heard by telephone, judges adopted a turn-based system. Judge Clarence Thomas, who had been silent for years during in-person argument, began to ask questions regularly during argument via teleconference.

For the new term, judges use a hybrid format that allows everyone to take turns asking the remaining questions at the end of each party’s 30 minutes of argument.

Thomas was the first judge to ask questions in both cases on Monday.

Several judges appeared deeply skeptical of Mississippi’s claim to groundwater from a disputed aquifer, which the state says is pumped into Tennessee by the Memphis Light, Gas & Water division.

“You have been arguing this case for over 16 years,” Judge Sonia Sotomayor told John Coghlan, a Mississippi lawyer. “When is it enough?” “

“Unfortunately, you have a lot to explain to me and I’ll forgive you if you don’t,” Judge Stephen Breyer told Coghlan later in arguments.

While the proceedings inside the court had returned to a relatively normal format, the backdrop was anything but typical.

The new term began under a cloud of criticism for the court, which fueled controversy last month after narrowly refusing to block a Texas law that bans most abortions as early as six weeks pregnant.

This decision was followed by a new opinion poll showing the Supreme Court at its lowest approval rating on record.

That’s the setting as the court, stacked 6-3 with Tories, prepares to consider many major cases, including one that could overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade of 1973 which legalized and protected abortion rights.


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