Bold Justice: SCOTUS postpones March sitting

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In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Ballotpedia is monitoring the impact of the outbreak on U.S. politics and elections and providing comprehensive coverage to our readers. This coverage includes federal, state, and local government actions; changes in election dates and procedures; and affected elected officials.

For for the latest developments, see the following articles:

Welcome to the March 23 edition of Bold Justice, Ballotpedia’s newsletter about the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) and other judicial happenings around the U.S. Stay up-to-date on the latest news by following us on Twitter or subscribing to the Daily Brew.

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Arguments postponed

On March 16, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it was postponing the 11 hours of oral arguments originally scheduled during its March sitting. In a press release, the court said the delay was “in keeping with public health precautions recommended in response to COVID-19.”

COVID-19 refers to coronavirus disease 2019, caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2. Click here for more information about political responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

The court last postponed arguments in October 1918 in response to the Spanish flu epidemic. In August 1793 and 1798, argument calendars were shortened in response to yellow fever outbreaks.

The court has heard arguments in 59 of the 73 cases it accepted to hear this term. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ current term.

Court closes indefinitely to the public

The court announced on March 12 that it was closing to the public indefinitely, beginning at 4:30 p.m. that day. The court posted on its website, “Out of concern for the health and safety of the public and Supreme Court employees, the Supreme Court Building will be closed to the public from 4:30 p.m. on March 12, 2020, until further notice.”


As of publication, the court had issued decisions in 16 cases and dismissed one case without a decision this term. The court released opinions in four cases on March 23. We’ll cover those in our next edition of Bold Justice!

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are the court’s upcoming dates of interest, pending further notice:

  • March 23: SCOTUS released orders and opinions.

  • March 27: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices.

  • March 30: SCOTUS will release orders.

SCOTUS trivia

The court last postponed arguments in October 1918 in response to the Spanish flu epidemic. Who was the chief justice of the court in 1918?  

State & local courts respond to coronavirus

In addition to SCOTUS, a number of state and local government offices and services are either limited or closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. We’ve looked at school closurespostponed primaries, and quarantined elected officials.

As of March 20, 32 states had suspended in-person judicial proceedings statewide. Sixteen states suspended in-person proceedings on the local level. Two states have had no change to their court schedule. Click here for more information on state court responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

Click here to learn more.