Justice Brett Kavanaugh has tested positive for Covid-19, the supreme court announced on Friday, just three days before the court is set to begin a new term hearing oral arguments in key cases relating to religion, guns and abortion.
The court said Kavanaugh, 56, is showing no symptoms of the virus and has been fully vaccinated against Covid since January.
As a precaution, Kavanaugh and his wife did not attend a Friday morning event for Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the newest member of the court, to take the oath of office in a so-called investiture ceremony.
The announcement that one of the nine justices on the bench, which is balanced 6-3 in favor of conservatives, has contracted Covid-19 comes days after a slim majority of five justices declined to block restrictive Texas abortion measures.
The decision, which was justified on procedural grounds, prompted fierce condemnation, including from Joe Biden, who has initiated a study of possible reforms to the court.
The announcement of Kavanaugh’s positive test also comes as several justices on the bench have responded to criticism that the court’s decisions are guided by political leanings.
Liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, 83, argued in a new book that judges on the bench are guided not by politics but judicial philosophy. Similarly, the conservative justice Clarence Thomas has hit back at suggestions that judges go “right to their personal preference”.
Coney Barrett, the third conservative appointee of Donald Trump after Neil Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, has said that “the court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks”.