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Supreme court drops its dissent, bows to Sandy

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Having defied the rest of official Washington by convening on Monday, the Supreme Court bowed finally to the havoc of Hurricane Sandy and decided to skip its Tuesday session.

The court, whose nine justices turned up for work on Monday despite the shutdown of most Washington federal government offices, will hear Tuesday's cases on Thursday, when no arguments were planned, spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said.

Wednesday's oral arguments will go ahead as scheduled, she said.

Most of the federal government and public transportation in Washington shut down on Monday, while the court heard its two previously scheduled disputes over federal wiretap and copyright law.

The scene recalled the court's decision in 1996 to hold arguments when a devastating snowstorm closed the federal government and brought most of the U.S. capital to a standstill. Appointed for life, the justices generally style themselves as pillars of fortitude and consistency.

Chief Justice John Roberts made no reference to the heavy rain and wind outside the marble-columned building on Monday.

The only mention came from Justice Stephen Breyer, who in the wiretap case raised it obliquely in a question about degrees of certainty. "It might not be a storm tomorrow," he quipped. "I mean, you know, nothing is certain."

Tuesday's two scheduled cases, now set for Thursday, test the right to counsel and the scope of a police search warrant. Wednesday's session involves two disputes over narcotics-sniffing police dogs.

In 1996, then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist, a Wisconsin native undeterred by snow and ruled by a strong sense of punctuality, made sure that business on that January 8 began on schedule. Roberts, 57, who grew up in Indiana and succeeded Rehnquist, was once a law clerk to Rehnquist, who died in 2005.

(Reporting by Joan Biskupic; Editing by Howard Goller and Will Dunham)

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