Supreme Court to Reopen to Public After Long COVID Closure

The U.S. Supreme Court will reopen to the public, allowing the public to hear arguments live and in person for the first time in about two and a half years following a closure due to the COVID pandemic. 

Chief Justice John Roberts made the announcement on the public reopening while speaking at the 10th Circuit Bench and Bar Conference in Colorado Springs. 

The court’s nine justices – all of whom have been vaccinated against COVID – will begin hearing a new round of cases when the court’s next term kicks off on Oct. 3.

No members of the public have been allowed in the white marble court building across the street from the U.S. Capitol since curbs related to the COVID pandemic were implemented in March 2020. The restrictions stayed in place even as the rest of official Washington relaxed restrictions months ago.

The Capitol began a phased reopening for visitors and tourists in March. The White House reopened a month later in April. 

But not the Supreme Court. 

The court further walled itself off, literally, from the public in May after the leak of a draft opinion showing that the court’s conservative bloc was set to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

It built a big 8-foot tall security fence amid concern about protests that followed the publication of the leaked opinion. 

The ruling was made the following month. The fence was removed in August.

After the start of the pandemic, the court changed the way it operated. In May 2020, it stopped hearing oral arguments in person and instead began to hear them by teleconference with a live audio feed provided to the public so they could listen along.

Justices resumed in-person oral arguments in October 2021. 

The courtroom opened mildly, with the Justices being joined in a sparsely populated courtroom by lawyers, court staff, and journalists. However, members of the public were still not permitted. That now may soon change, according to the announcement, but a date to reopen has not yet officially been set. 

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