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Supreme Court justices deny friction over masks in courtroom

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Supreme Court justices deny friction over masks in courtroom

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Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Sonia Sotomayor denied on Wednesday that there was any tension between them over the issue of wearing masks as they sat on the courtroom bench during oral arguments.

“Reporting that Judge Sotomayor asked Judge Gorsuch to wear a mask surprised us,” they said in a rare joint statement. “Not true. Although we sometimes disagree on the law, we are warm colleagues and friends.”

Since the court resumed oral argument this month after the recess, Gorsuch has not worn a mask in the courtroom. Sotomayor was absent from the bench and instead participated via audio connection to her rooms in the court building.

The court declined to explain why Sotomayor participated remotely. She has had diabetes since she was a child, which puts her at higher risk of infection from the coronavirus. She and Gorsuch usually sit next to each other behind the bench.

The court also declined to answer questions about why Gorsuch is not wearing a mask in the courtroom.

Wednesday’s statement appeared to be a response to a National Public Radio report that “Sotomayor did not feel safe around unmasked people.” He added: “Chief Justice John Roberts, understanding that in one form or another, has asked the other judges to mask themselves.”

Roberts on Wednesday denied asking his colleagues to wear masks during oral arguments.

“I did not ask Judge Gorsuch or any other judge to wear a mask on the bench,” he said in a statement released by the court.

Several judges remove their masks when asking questions, and Judge Samuel Alito frequently leaves his on for extended periods.

The court said all the judges had received Covid vaccines and boosters.

Supreme Court justices deny friction over masks in courtroom

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