Updated at 12:20 p.m. ET on April 8, 2020.
In this grim pandemic spring, as a worried nation has shut down, political leaders such as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and (belatedly) President Donald Trump have signaled that the government is still open. Letter carriers, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientists, health-care workers, and law-enforcement personnel are among the government employees risking their lives to make sure that essential functions do not collapse.
Conspicuously missing from this roll of honor is the Supreme Court of the United States, which, when social distancing and lockdowns spread across the nation, simply closed its doors, largely ceased operations, and disappeared. The Court has, as of last Friday, canceled two months’ worth of oral argument and provided no word on when, or how, it will take up its calendar again. “The Court will consider a range of scheduling options and other alternatives if arguments cannot be held in the Courtroom before the end of the Term,” the official website explains unhelpfully.
Of course, the unseen, unheard justices are—somewhere, somehow—deciding cases. Two previously argued cases were decided on Monday, one concerning the Fourth Amendment rules for police stops of cars, and the other on the burden of proof of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. And then, Monday night, the Court unveiled a 5–4 decision saying that while the justices are staying safe at home, thousands of voters in Wisconsin must either risk infection by defying a stay-at-home order or forfeit their right to vote in important state elections.