by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The Supreme Court remains sealed to visitors over two years into the pandemic even as the justices mix it up with the public.
Only lawyers—screened first for COVID—select reporters, and essential staff are allowed in for arguments as of this writing, while opinions are released online. The High Court is one of the last entities in Washington enforcing lockdown procedures. The U.S. Capitol reopened for tours in March and the White House shed its lingering mask requirement on March 1.
The Court’s distance from the public is especially jarring because it’s in the middle of one of the most consequential terms in its history. By June, the justices could overturn Roe v. Wade and recognize a constitutional right to carry guns in public. Those historic decisions could drop on a webpage while the justices start their annual summer break, beyond the public eye.
“I want dissents read from the bench. I want majority opinions read from the bench. This would be a huge missed opportunity for the press and for posterity,” said Gabe Roth, executive director of the oversight group Fix the Court. “I’m concerned that these types of exercises are ones that the chief justice would rather completely scrap or keep to a website to mete out.”
The Supreme Court’s public information office did not respond to requests for comment.
Members of the Court—all of whom are vaccinated and boosted—are traveling about the country freely, even as they bar the public from their courtroom. Justice Stephen Breyer appeared at the University of Virginia School of Law on April 12 to accept a medal from the university and participate in a forum. …
… Even Justice Sonia Sotomayor is reverting to normal form.