news·4 min read

Daily Skimm: COVID-19: SCOTUS, Tornadoes, and Idris Elba

Justices pose for their official portrait at the in the East Conference Room at the Supreme Court building November 30, 2018
Getty Images
Apr 14, 2020


The Story

Next month, SCOTUS will dial in to a phone line to hear oral arguments – for the first time, ever.

No Zoom for the Supremes?

No – but they will share live audio of the cases with news media, something the Supreme Court has never done before. The court says the changes will allow oral arguments to proceed "in keeping with public health guidance." The announcement comes after the court already delayed arguments because of the virus. Now, starting on May 4, it will hear 10 cases on key topics like:

President Trump's wallet…and whether it's possible for Congress and prosecutors to subpoena a sitting president's financial records. The court is considering three cases, on issues ranging from alleged hush-money payments to whether Trump lied on his financial statements to reduce his taxes. Trump has denied wrongdoing.

Religion and health care…as in, whether employers can get a religious pass to avoid providing birth control coverage as part of their health insurance plans. The Trump admin had issued rules letting employers skip on the Obamacare requirement – but they've been blocked in the courts. Now, a 5-4 conservative court could rule in the admin's favor.

The Electoral College...and whether "faithless electors" will be allowed among the 538 electors who decide our president. The term refers to those who go rogue and cast a vote that is different than their state's popular vote. You know, something pretty timely given what's coming up in November.

Sounds like there's a lot at stake.

Correct. But the Supreme Court isn't the only one that's had to adjust. State and federal courts across the US have suspended jury trials and criminal and civil cases over COVID-19. Some civil liberties advocates are worried about the loss of the constitutional right to a speedy trial.


The questions justices ask during these arguments can provide a clue into how they might rule on some of the country's most monumental cases. Now they'll do it on a conference call...the latest evidence that this pandemic is changing normal life for everyone, even the highest court of the land.


Yesterday, President Trump said it's up to him (not states) to decide when to reopen the US economy. But governors across the US are saying 'skrrt'...

On the East Coast, seven states including New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania have teamed up to work on a plan for how to eventually get their residents back to business. The idea is for three people from each state (one public health official, one economic official, one governor chief of staff) to meet up and hash out a plan of action. It's unclear when the stay-at-home orders will go away but the team will start meeting up as soon as today.

On the West Coast, California, Oregon, and Washington had a similar idea. The three states are also working on a "shared approach" for how to reopen business safely. While each state will ultimately have their own "state-specific plan," the three are working together to share ideas.

The question of how to reopen the US economy safely has sweeping implications for the health, safety, and prosperity of all Americans. It's still unclear when it will happen or what it will look like. But with reportedly little but a 'save the date' coming from the federal government, some states are saying 'we're running this now.'


What's causing concern...

These storms. Since Sunday, tornadoes and severe storms have hit multiple southern states, destroying homes and killing at least 32 people. Mississippi was the hardest hit, with at least 11 people killed. Overall, more than 1 million people are without power. And some states (see: Alabama) have struggled with how to deal with severe weather and stay-at-home orders as residents may have to flee their homes to find shelter.

What people are keeping an eye on...

The USS Theodore Roosevelt. Yesterday, a Navy sailor assigned to the ship died from COVID-19-related complications. This news comes weeks after Capt. Brett Crozier sent a letter to Navy officials, calling on them to improve their response to the virus after an outbreak was discovered on the ship. He also said "sailors do not need to die" and requested that they be quarantined on land to isolate. But Crozier was fired days later for using "poor judgment" as the letter became public. Now, more than 580 sailors aboard the ship have tested positive for the virus. Defense Secretary Mark Esper gave his condolences and said the Pentagon remains "committed to protecting" military personnel and their families amid the outbreak.

When lasting less than 10 minutes is a good thing…

Quibi gets it.

Skimm More: We spoke to Quibi CEO Meg Whitman on her biz experience and launching the company during COVID-19. Listen up.

Who's giving Sir David Attenborough a run for his money…

Idris Elba.

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