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Supreme Court cancels April oral arguments amid coronavirus crisis

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Washington — The Supreme Court postponed oral arguments scheduled for April, it announced Friday, as states and the federal government scramble to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The justices were scheduled to hear oral arguments in 11 cases, including a closely watched dispute on faithless electors and the Electoral College, across the last two weeks of April. The court has not yet said how it will handle those cases, as well as others scheduled to be heard in March and postponed, but said it would consider rescheduling some of them before the end of its term in late June "if circumstances permit in light of public health and safety guidance at that time."

"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 court's public information office said in a statement.

While the Supreme Court remains open for official business, it is closed to the public indefinitely due to the coronavirus and most employees are working from home, the court said.

Still, most of its work is forging ahead. The justices, all of whom are healthy, according to the court, are holding their weekly conferences during which they discuss pending cases, but doing so by phone. Additionally, the high court continues to release its list of orders online and is issuing opinions, though they are not read from the bench but posted online in five-minute increments.

The court has several options for handling the cases scheduled to be argued in March and April, including rescheduling some arguments for its next term, which starts in October, or deciding others summarily without arguments. In the scheduled cases, there are extensive written briefs already filed by the parties, as well as "friend of the court" briefs.

For those that are more time sensitive, such as the faithless electors cases and disputes over President Trump's financial records, which were scheduled to be heard in March, oral arguments could be pushed to May or June, Supreme Court litigator Tom Goldstein told CBS News.

The court could also stream oral arguments, though the justices have been loath to do so in the past.

The nation is heading into what Mr. Trump and leading public health officials say will be the toughest week yet as the U.S. works to curtail the spread of the coronavirus. There have been at least 330,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. and the death toll is nearing 10,000.

Governors of more than 40 states have issued stay-at-home orders for residents, and on Friday, the Centers for Disease Control issued guidance recommending Americans wear cloth face coverings when they are in public.

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