Vol. 20, No. 27 A Newspaper of General Circulation July 7, 2020
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Supreme Court’s work will continue into July
For the first time in 24 years, the court’s work is almost certain to extend into July, mainly a product of the court’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.  
The justices heard arguments by telephone in 10 cases in May, after closing the building to the public in mid-March and abandoning most in-person activities for a court in which 6 of the 9 justices are 65 and older, and most at risk of serious complications from COVID-19.  
Thomas, Ginsburg and Breyer were the only three justices who were on the court the last time it didn’t finish issuing opinions in June. That was in 1996, when the court held on July 1 that the government could be sued by once-healthy savings and loans that were forced into the red as part as the congressional response to the S&L crisis of the 1980s.  
Charles Cooper, who argued the S&Ls’ case at the Supreme Court, recalled that a resolution was urgently needed “because scores of copy-cat cases had been clogging” court dockets for years.  
The court also issued opinions in July a few years earlier, in 1989. That July, the court struck down a nativity display inside a government building in Pittsburgh, while upholding a menorah erected outside a different public building in Pittsburgh. The next day, the justices upheld or allowed to take effect several abortion restrictions in Missouri.  
When Burger was chief justice, from 1969 to 1986, the court routinely kept working into July, even past Independence Day.  
Adam Feldman, the creator of the Empirical Scotus blog, provided the data cited above.  
Another reason there is no special urgency to finishing up by the end of June is that the justices have nowhere to go this year.  
The last decisions of the term typically are followed closely by flights to very desirable locations, in the Alps, the Rockies, European capitals, even “an island fortress” in the Mediterranean, as Chief Justice John Roberts described Malta before heading there on the heels of his opinion saving the heart of the Affordable Care Act in 2012.  
The law schools that usually are thrilled to snag a justice to teach for a week or two in a study-abroad program all canceled their summer sessions this year because of the coronavirus outbreak.  
“I think we have reason to believe no one needs to jet off to Europe,” Supreme Court lawyer Paul Clement said, joking that the term could last to August 10 at the current pace of decisions.  
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