WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court Friday said it will scrap the oral argument schedule for the rest of the term amid the coronavirus pandemic but left open the possibility that it might hear a few cases before the term ends in late June.
Nine cases were to be argued during the two-week session beginning April 20, including one of the most important of the term — a challenge to the current system used for electing the president. The court was to decide whether presidential electors must vote for the candidate who won the popular vote in their states or whether they are free agents.
The court earlier canceled oral argument in March as measures like stay-at-home orders and social distancing directives were implemented across the country to slow the spread of the virus. It did not hear from lawyers involved in the legal battle over access by Congress and a state grand jury in New York to President Donald Trump’s tax returns and other financial documents.
It remains unclear what will happen to all the March and April cases, but Friday the court said it might hear some before the term is over “if circumstances permit in light of public health and safety guidance at that time.” As for how that would work, with the court building closed to the public, a statement said the court “will consider a range of scheduling options and other alternatives if arguments cannot be held in the courtroom.”
That suggests the justices might hear argument by phone or video conference, as many of the nation’s courts have begun doing since the pandemic hit.
Some of the March and April cases could also be held over until next term, which begins in October, and some could be decided based entirely on the extensive written briefs.
The court continues to do business, issuing orders and opinions. The justices are no longer meeting together but are instead conducted business by teleconference. A court spokeswoman said all nine remain healthy.