The Supreme Court on Monday postponed oral arguments scheduled for later in March amid the growing coronavirus pandemic, a move that could delay a decision on whether President Donald Trump must release his tax returns.
“In keeping with public health precautions recommended in response to COVID-19, the Supreme Court is postponing the oral arguments currently scheduled for the March session,” the court said in a statement.
Justices were scheduled to hear oral arguments from March 23 to 25 and March 30 to April 1.
Government agencies and businesses across the country have drastically cut back the operations as the threat of coronavirus grows. Several states and major U.S. cities have implemented restrictions on businesses such as restaurants and bars in hopes of slowing the spread of the virus. As of Monday, nearly 4,000 Americans have tested positive for coronavirus. Of those, nearly 70 people have died.
More than half of the Supreme Court justices are considered at higher risk from the coronavirus outbreak because of their age. All nine justices are over 50 years old. Six justices are 65 or older, and two — Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg — are older than 80. Coronavirus has been especially harsh on patients 80 and above.
The court said that justices will hold a regularly scheduled conference call on Friday, but will allow justices to participate by phone.
This is not the first time that the court has cancelled oral arguments out of public health concerns. The court postponed arguments in October 1918 because of the Spanish flu, and in August 1793 and August 1798, during outbreaks of yellow fever.
The court was set to hear arguments on March 31 regarding the release of Trump’s tax returns and other financial records. The cases involved subpoenas from the House Ways and Means Committee and the New York City district attorney for Trump’s financial documents. Trump has sued to prevent his bank and accountant from turning over the records.