US Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch is being slammed by legal contemporaries after refusing to wear a mask around fellow Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who suffers from diabetes.
This is despite all the other judges on the court being masked when asked to do so by Chief Justice John Roberts.
One special Report NPR reported how Sotomayor, 67, was not present on the bench earlier in January when the court returned for oral arguments after leave. Sotomayor was seen taking part in the proceedings from inside her private rooms through the microphone setup.
Barring Gorsuch, the other judges who were present in the court were all wearing masks. It also includes the court’s most conservative judges such as Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as someone with diabetes, Sotomayor is at high risk of serious complications or even death related to COVID-19. While all nine judges on the court have received their COVID booster shots, the CDC still recommends wearing masks in indoor settings to help reduce the spread of the virus.
Roberts reportedly told other judges to wear masks in “some form” after Sotomayor expressed concern that she didn’t feel safe around unmasked people because of her condition. This was fueled by the recent surge of Omicron editions.
Gorsuch also sits on the bench directly next to Sotomayor, further cementing Sotomayor’s decision to stay out of the room.
In addition to participating in oral arguments remotely, Sotomayor also skipped the in-person weekly justice conference. Instead, they attend meetings, in which the facts of oral arguments are debated via telephone.
While other judges have not stated their opinion on the matter, they likely fall along ideological lines. During an earlier debate about President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for large employers, Justice Elena Kagan, one of the court’s most liberal members, called the pandemic “the greatest public threat this country has faced in the past century.”
However, outside the walls of the court, legal analysts and scholars rebuked Gorsuch for his decision to leave a façade.
Harvard University law professor Laurence Tribe tweeted: “Gorsuch refuses to wear a mask on bench even though Chief Justice asked to do so so that Justice Sotomayor, a diabetic and therefore immunocompromised, can appear in person.” , wish they weren’t [Harvard] Alum.”
Richard Signarelli, a lawyer and member of the Supreme Court Bar, echoed a similar sentiment.
Signorelli tweeted, “As a member of the Supreme CT Bar, I strongly condemn Justice Gorsuch’s refusal to wear a mask to protect his high-risk colleague, Justice Sotomayor, from being killed by COVID ” “shame on him.”
Former US attorney Joyce Vance said she wants Gorsuch to be a better role model.
“Putting on a mask costs Gorsuch nothing, but then he didn’t care about the risk to front-line workers,” Vance said, adding that Gorsuch joined a 6-3 vote to overturn the vaccine mandate. Mentioned to be
Brian Fallon, the press secretary for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, appeared on MSNBC and lambasted Gorsuch as a “meaning-spirited and hateful person.” However, he also noted to his surprise that any conservative judge was willing to put on the mask.
“I am somewhat surprised that judges like Alito and Clarence Thomas have taken the high road and put on a mask because it has become such a political issue on the right.”
newsweek The Supreme Court has been reached for comment.