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Now vaccinated, justices gather privately at Supreme Court

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is returning to a little bit of normal following a year disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Most of the justices met in person Friday for a regularly scheduled private conference, court spokesperson Kathy Arberg said. The justices have been holding conferences by phone since the court closed to the public in March of last year. Before Friday, the justices last met in person for a private conference on March 6, 2020.

All nine of the justices are vaccinated and the gathering was in keeping with recently released Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance about indoor gatherings for people who have been fully vaccinated, Arberg said.

The CDC said earlier this month that fully vaccinated Americans can gather with other vaccinated people indoors without wearing a mask or social distancing. Some justices participated remotely in Friday’s conference, but the court did not say whom or why.

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Chief Justice John Roberts has said that one thing he was looking forward to when in-person meetings resumed was getting back to the the court’s tradition of shaking hands. Since the late 19th century, the justices have exchanged handshakes with each of their colleagues when they meet in person for private conferences and before arguments.

Still, the court is not ready to completely get back to business as usual. The court also announced Friday that the justices would continue to hear arguments in cases by phone through April. The court is scheduled to hear six cases by phone over the next two weeks and another dozen cases in April.

Since the justices heard their first arguments by phone last year in May the court has heard nearly 50 arguments, and more than 100 attorneys have argued by phone.