Gorsuch and Sotomayor Counter Reports of Covid-19 Mask Tiff


WASHINGTON — Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Neil Gorsuch issued an extraordinary statement Wednesday stifling reports that they disagree over face coverings in the courthouse amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Judge Sotomayor participated in remote court proceedings this month, while her eight colleagues take the floor for oral argument. Judge Gorsuch, alone among them, did not wear a mask. On Tuesday, NPR and CNN reported that 67-year-old Judge Sotomayor, whose diabetes puts her at high risk, was avoiding the procedure because of her unmasked colleague.

On Wednesday, as the court heard arguments in a crack case, the court spokeswoman released a joint statement from Justices Sotomayor and Gorsuch.

“Reporting that Judge Sotomayor asked Judge Gorsuch to wear a mask surprised us. It’s wrong. Although we sometimes disagree on the law, we are warm colleagues and friends,” the statement read.

Reports did not indicate that Judge Sotomayor directly asked Judge Gorsuch to wear a mask. The CNN report said she raised her concerns about the masking with Chief Justice John Roberts.

The Supreme Court did not immediately respond to a request for clarification.

Judge Sotomayor, according to some members of the court the most liberal, was appointed in 2009 by former President Barack Obama. Justice Gorsuch, among the more conservative members, was appointed in 2017 by former President Donald Trump.

Although the two often disagree on legal matters, this is not always the case. The two worked together promote civic education, including the iCivics program founded by retired judge Sandra Day O’Connor. In April, the two judges appeared together at an event in Washington exposing the threat to national security posed by disinformation.

Write to Jess Bravin at jess.bravin+1@wsj.com

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