By Ariane de Vogue, CNN Supreme Court Reporter
Justice Sonia Sotomayor was back on the bench for oral arguments at the Supreme Court on Tuesday after participating remotely during the court’s January sitting that came during a surge in Covid-19 cases due to the Omicron variant.
Sotomayor was the only justice wearing a mask on Tuesday. She suffers from diabetes that puts her in a high-risk category for Covid.
All of the justices are fully vaccinated, have received booster shots and are tested regularly, according to a court spokesperson.
During the January session, Sotomayor did not participate in person because she didn’t feel comfortable at the time sitting on the bench near colleagues who were not masked, a source familiar with the situation told CNN.
At the time, all of the justices entered the chamber wearing masks except for Justice Neil Gorsuch, who sits next to Sotomayor. In addition, Sotomayor had been participating in the justices-only conference sessions remotely, a court spokeswoman confirmed.
In an unusual statement issued last month, Sotomayor and Gorsuch asserted there was no tension on the high court around masking and stressed that Sotomayor did not ask Gorsuch to wear a mask while on the bench.
In the rare statement, the justices said that “reporting that Justice Sotomayor asked Justice Gorsuch to wear a mask surprised us. It is false. While we may sometimes disagree about the law, we are warm colleagues and friends.”
Chief Justice John Roberts also issued a statement through the court’s press office, saying: “I did not request Justice Gorsuch or any other Justice to wear a mask on the bench.”
It was only during the January sitting that a majority of the justices wore masks. From October through December, only Sotomayor chose to do so.
The justices were hearing two cases on Tuesday, both concerning issues related to Native Americans in the areas of gaming law and the reach of federal criminal law.
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