Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh has tested positive for the coronavirus, a Supreme Court spokeswoman said on Friday. She said the justice had been fully vaccinated since January and that he was not showing symptoms of the virus.
Justice Kavanaugh, 56, was tested on Thursday before the ceremonial investiture of Justice Amy Coney Barrett at the court on Friday morning, the spokeswoman, Patricia McCabe, said in a statement.
“Justice Kavanaugh’s wife and daughters are also fully vaccinated, and they tested negative on Thursday,” Ms. McCabe said. “As a precaution, Justice and Mrs. Kavanaugh will not attend Justice Barrett’s investiture this morning.”
All of the justices were tested on Monday morning before their private conference to discuss the petitions seeking review that had piled up over their summer break. “All tested negative, including Justice Kavanaugh,” Ms. McCabe said.
In a second statement Friday night, Ms. McCabe said that Justice Kavanaugh would “participate in next week’s oral arguments remotely from his home.” The other justices are set to return to the bench on Monday after more than 18 months of the court operating virtually.
The arguments will not be open to the public, but the court will provide live audio. The lawyers arguing before the court are required to be tested the morning before they argue.
“An arguing attorney who receives a positive test will not argue in person, but will instead be expected to participate remotely by telephone connection to the courtroom,” according to an announcement posted on the court’s website this week.
The lawyers are required to be masked in the courtroom “except when presenting argument.”
The court last heard in-person arguments in March of last year. Since then, arguments have taken place by telephone, with the justices asking questions one by one in order of seniority, an arrangement many observers found inert and stilted.
A positive aspect of the arrangement was the full participation of Justice Clarence Thomas, who very seldom asked questions in the courtroom.
When the justices return to the bench, they will adopt a hybrid model of argument, starting with the familiar and dynamic free-for-all in which they pepper the lawyers with questions, build on each other’s comments and not infrequently interrupt the lawyers and one another. That will be followed by a round of one-by-one questioning.
The State of Vaccine Mandates in the U.S.
- Vaccine rules. On Aug. 23, the F.D.A. granted full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for people 16 and up, paving the way for mandates in both the public and private sectors. Such mandates are legally allowed and have been upheld in court challenges.
- College and universities. More than 400 colleges and universities are requiring students to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Almost all are in states that voted for President Biden.
- Schools. California became the first state to issue a vaccine mandate for all educators and has announced plans to add the Covid-19 vaccine as a requirement to attend school as early as next fall. Los Angeles already has a vaccine mandate for public school students 12 and older who are attending class in person starting Nov. 21. New York City has introduced a vaccine mandate for teachers and staff, but it has yet to take effect because of legal challenges. On Sept. 27, a federal appeals panel reversed a decision that temporarily paused that mandate.
- Hospitals and medical centers. Many hospitals and major health systems are requiring employees to get vaccinated. Mandates for health care workers in California and New York State appear to have compelled thousands of holdouts to receive shots.
- New York City. Proof of vaccination is required of workers and customers for indoor dining, gyms, performances and other indoor situations. City education staff and hospital workers must also get a vaccine.
- At the federal level. On Sept. 9, President Biden announced a vaccine mandate for the vast majority of federal workers. This mandate will apply to employees of the executive branch, including the White House and all federal agencies and members of the armed services.
- In the private sector. Mr. Biden has mandated that all companies with more than 100 workers require vaccination or weekly testing, helping propel new corporate vaccination policies. Some companies, like United Airlines and Tyson Foods, had mandates in place before Mr. Biden’s announcement.
The new term will include two blockbusters, on gun rights and abortion. In November, the justices will hear arguments on the constitutionality of a restrictive New York gun control law that strictly limits carrying guns in public. The court has not issued a major Second Amendment decision in more than a decade, and it has said next to nothing about how it applies outside the home.
In December, the justices will hear a challenge to a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The case, a frontal challenge to the constitutional right to abortion established in Roe v. Wade in 1973, may well give rise to the court’s most consequential decision in decades.
Over the summer, the court’s conservative majority issued a series of orders in response to emergency applications, blocking Biden administration programs on asylum and evictions and refusing to halt a Texas law that bans most abortions after six weeks.
Recent polls have shown a sharp drop in the court’s public approval. In apparent response, several of the justices have made public comments denying that politics or partisanship plays a role in their decisions.
On Thursday, for instance, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. defended the court’s recent rulings on what critics call its “shadow docket,” rendered without full briefing or oral argument, saying the court has followed consistent procedures and had no choice but to act quickly and offer only limited reasons for its rulings.