Supreme Court Issues Rare Statement on Reports of Tension Over Masks

The Supreme Court on Wednesday weighed in after a report alleged the reason Justice Sonia Sotomayor is participating in arguments from her chambers as opposed to sitting with colleagues is due to Justice Neil Gorsuch’s refusal to wear a mask.

“Reporting that Justice Sotomayor asked Justice Gorsuch to wear a mask surprised us. It is false. While we may sometimes disagree about the law, we are warm colleagues and friends,” Sotomayor, an Obama nominee, and Gorsuch, a Trump nominee, said in a joint statement sent to The Epoch Times by a court spokesperson.

One report from NPR alleged Chief Justice John Roberts, a George W. Bush nominee, had asked the other justice to wear masks because he understood that Sotomayor didn’t feel safe around people who weren’t wearing them following the surge of the Omicron virus variant. The report cited “court sources” for its claim and was authored by Nina Totenberg, who was fired for plagiarism earlier in her career.

Another report, from CNN, cited a single unnamed source in alleging Sotomayor had gone to her chambers for cases because she was uncomfortable with Gorsuch being unmasked.

Sotomayor’s worries stem from having diabetes, which puts her at increased risk of experiencing severe illness if she contracts the virus, according to the reports.

A Supreme Court spokesperson declined to answer follow-up questions over the phone and has not returned emailed questions on the matter, including how long Sotomayor has been participating in arguments remotely.

The justice was again listening from her chambers on Wednesday, according to Roberts.

An NPR spokesperson told news outlets that Totenberg “never reported that Justice Sotomayor asked Justice Gorsuch to wear a mask, nor did she report that anyone admonished him,” adding, “The statement released by Justices Sotomayor and Gorsuch does not contradict the reporting in Totenberg’s piece.”

NTD Photo
Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch delivers remarks after taking the judicial oath during a ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington on April 10, 2017. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

All nine justices have received COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots, the court has previously said.

Still, the vaccines have proven increasingly unable to prevent infection from the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes COVID-19, following the emergence of the Omicron variant, though they’re holding up relatively well against severe disease.

Sotomayor and her two colleagues also nominated by Democrat presidents drew criticism earlier this month when they offered false statements on COVID-19 during arguments for and against two Biden administration COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Sotomayor, for instance, claimed that in the United States, “We have over 100,000 children, which we’ve never had before, in serious condition and many on ventilators.”

Federal data, though, showed that about 3,500 children were hospitalized with COVID-19, and a significant percentage of hospitalized patients are actually admitted for other reasons.

Justice Stephen Breyer, a Clinton nominee, falsely said that 750 million new COVID-19 cases were recorded on Jan. 6 while Justice Elena Kagan, an Obama nominee, claimed that “we know that the best way to prevent spread is for people to get vaccinated and to prevent dangerous illness and death is for people to get vaccinated” even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said even before the emergence of Omicron—which easily bypasses vaccines—that vaccines do not prevent transmission of the virus.

Matthew Vadum contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times