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Supreme Court delays arguments for the first outbreak since Spanish flu

The postponed cases include Trump’s personal challenge to congressional subpoenas for financial and tax records

People make their way into the Supreme Court.  The court postponed arguments in the month of March over concerns regarding coronavirus.
People make their way into the Supreme Court. The court postponed arguments in the month of March over concerns regarding coronavirus. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Supreme Court on Monday postponed oral arguments for its March session because of the coronavirus outbreak, which means a delay in a case over President Donald Trump’s personal challenge to congressional subpoenas for his financial and tax records.

The court hasn’t postponed argument sessions because of public health concerns since the Spanish flu epidemic in October 1918, and before that shortened argument calendars for yellow fever outbreaks in 1793 and 1798.

[Supreme Court rules ‘Remain in Mexico’ program can continue during challenge]

The justices join a growing number of federal and state courts across the country that have postponed in-person court proceedings as the need for “social distancing” measures to stop the spread of the virus has closed bars, restaurants, concerts and other public gatherings.

The Supreme Court had oral arguments set for March 23 through March 25, and then March 30 through April 1. “The Court will examine the options for rescheduling those cases in due course in light of the developing circumstances,” the court’s Office of Public information said in a news release.

Among the cases: oral arguments March 31 on subpoenas from House committees to accounting firm Mazars USA, Deutsche Bank and Capital One Financial Corp., seeking Trump’s financial and tax records.

A decision would have been expected before the end of the term at the end of June, but the timing of the Supreme Court’s typical schedule is as unknown as the course of the coronavirus outbreak across the United States.

The delay calls into question whether the House, even if it wins the case, would be able to get the documents ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

The Supreme Court building remains closed to the public until further notice but is still open for official business and the justices did not extend filing deadlines.

Other courts made similar decisions.

For example, the U.S Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit closed its building to the public Monday and canceled in-person oral arguments set for the week of March 30, moving to arguments over the telephone if any of them are required to be done.

“The public is advised that if telephonic argument is held, the court will promptly post the audio files on this website,” the 5th Circuit said.

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