The Supreme Courtroom is permitting public hearings for the primary time since Covid

A crosswalk signal is seen in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, U.S., June 27, 2022.

Elisabeth Franz | Reuters

The Supreme Court will, starting Monday, allow members of the public to attend oral hearings for the first time since the Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020, the court’s press office confirmed in a statement on Wednesday.

The resumption of public access coincides with the start of the High Court’s term in October, when the court’s judges are due to hear arguments in three cases.

And the reopening comes a year after the court resumed in-person hearings after more than a year of conducting those sessions remotely.

For the past year, access to the courtrooms for these hearings has been restricted to the court’s nine judges, key court personnel, lawyers for the parties in disputes, and journalists with full-time court press cards.

Earlier this month, Chief Justice John Roberts said during an address at the 10th Circuit Bench and Bar Conference in Colorado that public access would resume soon.

In its Wednesday announcement, the court’s press office said, “Masking in the courtroom at hearings is optional.”

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Barring hearings, the Supreme Court building in Washington, DC, “will otherwise be closed to the public until further notice,” the bureau said.

However, the court will continue to offer a live audio feed for oral hearings, a practice introduced after the court closed public access to the hearings due to Covid.

The Supreme Court said on March 16, 2020 that it would postpone hearings scheduled for the following two weeks this month due to “public health precautions recommended in response to Covid-19”.

The court subsequently adjourned the April 2020 hearing for the same reason. In May 2020, the court conducted hearings via teleconference for a number of cases previously scheduled for hearing.

When the court began hearings for its term in October 2020, it did so via conference call.

In-person hearings without public access resumed in October 2021.

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