Two attorneys from states challenging the Biden administration’s vaccine and testing mandates participated in oral arguments at the Supreme Court remotely Friday due to the court’s Covid-19 protocols.
In addition, Justice Sonia Sotomayor took part from her chambers, but she is not ill, the court said.
Ohio’s Solicitor General Benjamin M. Flowers and Louisiana Solicitor General Elizabeth Murrill – participated by telephone. Attorneys planning to attend arguments in person must take a PCR Covid test on the morning before arguments.
Flowers had Covid late last year but has recovered, the Ohio Attorney General’s office said.
“Ben, who is vaccinated and boosted, tested positive for COVID-19 after Christmas,” said press secretary Steve Irwin. “His symptoms were exceptionally mild and he has since fully recovered. The Court required a PCR test yesterday which detected the virus so for that reason he is arguing remotely.”
The Louisiana Attorney General’s office said only that Murrill was absent due to the court’s protocols.
“In accordance with the COVID protocols of the Court, Solicitor General Liz Murrill will be arguing via phone at today’s hearing,” the office said.
This was the first time an attorney this term will participate remotely, the court’s spokeswoman said. Earlier in the term, Justice Brett Kavanaugh participated remotely from a handful or arguments after testing positive for Covid, and Justice Neil Gorsuch also called in to arguments when he was experiencing a stomach bug.
The court did not give a reason for Sotomayor’s decision, with a court spokeswoman saying only that the liberal justice “is not ill.”
Sotomayor is fully vaccinated and the court announced last week that she had received her booster shot. But she had been the only justice routinely wearing a mask during previous oral arguments, likely due to the fact that she has diabetes.
Friday, for the first time, seven of the justices appeared in the majestic chamber wearing masks, though Gorsuch chose not to.
All of the justices are fully vaccinated, the court has said, and they have all received booster shots.
This story has been updated with additional details.