The nation’s courts have reacted nimbly to the coronavirus pandemic, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote in his yr-finish report on the state of the federal judiciary.
“For the previous ten months,” he wrote, “it has been all hands on deck for the courts, as our branch of government confronted the Covid-19 pandemic.”
“The final nationwide crisis came with the virulent outbreak of the Spanish flu in 1918, which led to cancellation of Supreme Court sessions,” he wrote. “But for extra than a century, the courts have not had to reply to this kind of a widespread public well being emergency.”
It was an eventful yr for Chief Justice Roberts, 1 that integrated presiding above the impeachment trial of President Trump, the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the arrival of Justice Amy Coney Barrett. The reconfigured court is a get the job done in progress, but the addition of Justice Barrett will virtually undoubtedly diminish the chief justice’s electrical power, as his vote is now no longer critical when the justices are divided along ideological lines.
In response to the pandemic, the Supreme Court postponed arguments that had been scheduled for March and April, and in Could it embarked on a daring experiment, hearing arguments by phone and letting the public pay attention in, the two firsts. The court has now heard some forty arguments in the new format. Notwithstanding the occasional glitch, the proceedings had been orderly and dignified if at instances stilted and inert.
Chief Justice Roberts wrote that the new format permitted the court to perform. “Although we search forward to returning to standard sittings in our courtroom,” the chief justice wrote, “we have been capable to remain latest in our get the job done.”
By some measures, even though, the court’s workload is dropping. An appendix to the chief justice’s report mentioned the court issued only 53 signed opinions in argued situations in the phrase that ended in July. That is the smallest amount considering the fact that the 1860s. The latest phrase appears poised to yield a similarly smaller amount of opinions.
In the course of the Spanish flu epidemic, in the phrase that started off in 1918, the court made the decision 163 situations, or extra than 3 instances as lots of as the latest court.