In Light of COVID-19, Supreme Court Sets Audio Arguments for May

In Light of COVID-19, Supreme Court Sets Audio Arguments for in May
The Supreme Court is adapting to the threat of the coronavirus by taking the unprecedented step of holding arguments via telephone in some cases originally set to be argued this term. (Lorie Shaull)

The United States Supreme Court announced on Monday it will hold a series of cases via teleconference due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. 

Breaking with longstanding tradition, the public will be able to listen live. Since the turn of the century, the court has only allowed same-day audio release 27 times.

Cases of interest in the 2020 presidential election are plenty. Subpoenas of President Trump’s financial records—a case that has many looking to see how the Republican-dominated court will fall—top the list.

Also of consequence this November, the courts will decide whether “faithless electors”—members of the Electoral College who do not vote for the presidential or vice presidential candidate for whom they had pledged to vote—must vote with their state. 

The court will also hear a case which has the potential to end assured birth control under the Affordable Care Act. This mandate has long been under attack by the Trump administration. The court will decide if, under the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, employers can refuse to provide birth control coverage on religious grounds.

Religious protections have historically won out, such as in the 2014 Burwell v Hobby Lobby Stores case. (Unsurprisingly, three of the four dissenters were women. All three remain on the bench.)

These landmark decisions under unprecedented circumstances come after the dramatic confirmation hearings of Justice Kavanaugh. Justice Kennedy, often the swing vote, will no longer be present to lend a moderate voice. Instead, the court is stacked with conservative justices. 

At a moment when the nation will be anxiously awaiting news, the results may come later than usual: The delay in hearings may cause a decision postponement, pushing past the ordinary June end of the term. 

The full list of the cases to be heard are: 

  • 18-9526, McGirt v. Oklahoma
  • 19-46, United States Patent and Trademark Office v. B.V.
  • 19-177, Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International,  Inc.
  • 19-267, Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, and 19-348, St. James School v. Biel
  • 19-431, Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania, and 19-454, Trump v. Pennsylvania
  • 19-465, Chiafalo v. Washington
  • 19-518, Colorado Department of State v. Baca
  • 19-631, Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants, Inc.
  • 19-635, Trump v. Vance
  • 19-715, Trump v. Mazars USA, LLP, and 19-760, Trump v. Deutsche Bank AG

The coronavirus pandemic and the response by federal, state and local authorities is fast-movingDuring this time, Ms. is keeping a focus on aspects of the crisis—especially as it impacts women and their families—often not reported by mainstream media. If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting our independent reporting and truth-telling for as little as $5 per month.


Audrey Andrews is a Ph.D. student in anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno. She is an archaeologist, runner and feminist. Audrey graduated from Columbia University.