Supreme Court scraps April calendar, delays major cases amid pandemic

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Citing the ongoing coronavirus public health crisis, the US Supreme Court on Friday cleared its calendar for April, extending an already historic delay of major legal cases, several of which have big implications for the 2020 election.

The announcement, coming in a statement by court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg, adds 8 cases to the 13 postponed in March. They include challenges to debt collector robocalls; the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act; and state efforts to ban so-called "faithless electors," who cast Electoral Votes in presidential elections contrary to their state's popular vote.

Last month, the Court also postponed a high profile appeal from President Trump in three separate lawsuits seeking access to his personal financial records. A ruling to upholding subpoenas for the documents could force Trump to turn over his tax returns to New York State and congressional investigators just weeks before the election.

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All of the cases had been expected to be decided by the end of June. Several have urgent deadlines: The Trump subpoenas, for example, expire at the end of the year.

"If the Supreme Court can conduct its weekly conferences remotely, which it has been doing for weeks, it can conduct its remaining arguments remotely and allow the public to listen," said Gabe Roth, executive director of Fix the Court, an independent watchdog group that has long pushed for greater transparency and audio/video coverage of court proceedings.

"The country has adapted to working over Zoom, Skype and Google Hangouts, and dozens of state and federal courts are keeping the wheels of justice moving via teleconferencing in spite of the pandemic," Roth said. "The Supreme Court should be no different."

Arberg signaled Friday that the Court intends to try to reschedule oral arguments for as many cases as possible before the end of the term, but suggested some cases may need to be postponed further -- possibly until the fall.

"The Court will consider a range of scheduling options and other alternatives if arguments cannot be held in the Courtroom before the end of the Term," she said.

In the meantime, the justices are continuing to draft opinions in several landmark cases that could be released as soon as Monday. Among them are expected rulings on Trump's cancellation of DACA for young undocumented immigrants and federal protection against employment discrimination for LGBT Americans.

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