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U.S. Supreme Court to reopen to public after long COVID closure

Morning rises on the U.S. Supreme Court building, still closed to the general public through the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Washington, U.S. April 26, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

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Sept 10 (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court allows the public to listen to arguments personally for the very first time in about 2-1/2 years carrying out a closure because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chief Justice John Roberts said late on Friday, in accordance with media reports.

The court’s nine justices – most of whom have already been vaccinated against COVID-19 – will start hearing a fresh round of cases once the court’s next term begins on Oct. 3.

Roberts announced the general public reopening while speaking at the 10th Circuit Bench and Bar Conference in Colorado Springs, CNN and local media outlet Colorado Politics reported.

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Court spokespeople didn’t immediately react to requests for comment.

No members of the general public have already been allowed in the white marble court building next door from the U.S. Capitol since pandemic-related curbs were implemented in March 2020, even while the others of official Washington relaxed restrictions months ago.

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

The court further walled itself faraway from the public in-may following 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 erected an 8-foot (2.44-meter) tall security fence amid concern about protests that followed the publication of the leaked opinion. The ruling was made the next month. The fence was removed in August.

Following the start of pandemic, the court changed just how it operated. IN-MAY 2020, it began hearing oral arguments by teleconference, rather than personally, with a live audio feed provided to the general public for the very first time.

Justices resumed in-person oral arguments in October 2021. These were joined in a sparsely populated courtroom by lawyers, court staff and journalists, but members of the general public were still not permitted.

The tenor of oral arguments also changed, with a number of the prior free-for-all questioning of arguing attorneys replaced by more orderly justice-by-justice questioning.

Justice Clarence Thomas, who famously hardly ever spoke during arguments during the past, became a vocal presence on the bench utilizing the new format, regularly asking questions.

The court’s new term promises to be momentous, as was its prior term.

Fresh off landmark decisions ending the recognition of a constitutional to abortion and embracing a constitutional to carry a handgun in public areas for self-defense, the justices will decide several contentious cases involving race.

One of these carries a bid to get rid of affirmative action policies utilized by universites and colleges to improve their amounts of Black and Hispanic students.

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Reporting by Andrew Chung and Nate RaymondEditing by Scott Malone and Helen Popper

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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