The Supreme Court justices return to in-person oral arguments Monday in a day filled with big questions about how the upcoming term will work, the cases in front of the justices and the future of the court.
When Chief Justice John Roberts gavels in the new term at 10 a.m., it will mark the first time that the justices will be in the same room to hear a case in over a year-and-a-half. Justice Amy Coney Barrett will be on the bench for the first time since she was confirmed last year. And Justice Brett Kavanaugh will be absent after a positive COVID-19 test last week.
One of the biggest unknowns about the upcoming term is whether Justice Clarence Thomas will stop being an active participant in oral arguments as was the case before the pandemic. The justice made clear his distaste for the freewheeling argument format the court used in which justices, in no particular order, would interrupt lawyers for the parties with a barrage of questions from the beginning of their argument to the end.
This format was changed when the court went remote in April 2020 so as to keep order on the telephone conferences. But guidance recently issued told lawyers to prepare for a flurry of questions from justices and even instances in which the justices might “ask questions before you complete your answer to the first Justice.”
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