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The U.S. Supreme Court postponed a two-week argument session that had been set to start March 23, 2020, making a highly unusual calendar change as the coronavirus outbreak spreads across the country. (Dreamstime/TNS)

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court announced Monday it would not hold oral arguments during the next two weeks due to the cononarvirus, the first postponement of its kind since 1918.

"In keeping with public health precautions recommended in response to COVID-19, the Supreme Court is postponing the oral arguments currently scheduled for the March session (March 23-25 and March 30-April 1). The court will examine the options for rescheduling those cases in due course in light of the developing circumstances," the court's public information office said in a statement.

The court had been scheduled to hear arguments in several high-profile cases, including President Donald Trump's appeal of three lower court rulings that would require his accountants to disclose his tax returns to several House committees and to a New York district attorney.

It is not clear whether the postponement will change how or when the court decides those cases. Typically, the justices hear oral arguments through the end of April and issue opinions in those cases by the end of June. But both schedules can be changed. The justices have at times heard arguments in May and have not released their final rulings until July.

The court said the justices would hold a regularly scheduled conference on Friday morning to consider pending appeals. But the announcement said some of the justices might participate by phone.

The virus is particularly dangerous for older people. The court's two oldest members are Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who marked her 87th birthday on Sunday, and Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who is 81.

The court said the postponement of argument sesssions was "not unprecedented. The court postponed scheduled arguments for October 1918 in response to the Spanish flu epidemic. The court also shortened its argument calendars in August 1793 and August 1798 in response to yellow fever outbreaks."

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