3 oldest Supreme Court justices skip Biden inauguration due to coronavirus pandemic

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The Supreme Court’s three oldest justices did not attend President Biden’s inauguration Wednesday due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Justices Stephen Breyer, 82; Clarence Thomas, 72; and Samuel Alito, 70, skipped the swearing-in ceremony as a precaution, according to the court.

“They elected not to attend the inauguration ceremony in light of the public health risks posed by the COVID pandemic,” Supreme Court spokesperson Kathleen Arberg said in a statement to Fox News. 

Breyer was appointed by then-President Bill Clinton. Alito was appointed by then-President George H.W. Bush and Thomas by then-President George Bush. 

The other six justices were in attendance. Chief Justice John Roberts swore in President Biden while Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor swore in Vice President Kamala Harris. 

Biden, at 78, is older than two of the justices who did not attend, and he became the oldest president ever to take office. He has received both doses of his coronavirus vaccine. 


In December, it was announced that justices would be offered priority doses of the coronavirus vaccine along with Congress and executive agencies for “continuity of government.” It’s not yet clear whether the justices have received either or both doses of their vaccine.

“The Office of the Attending Physician has made arrangements for all of the Justices to obtain [a] vaccine, and they are in the process of receiving it,” Arberg said. On Jan. 11, CNN reported that Roberts had received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine. 


Three of the five most recent former presidents attended Wednesday’s ceremony: Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Jimmy Carter, 96, opted not to join the ceremony due to the pandemic. Former President Trump was also notably not in attendance though former Vice President Mike Pence was. Trump set off for Florida Wednesday morning ahead of Biden’s inauguration and delivered a farewell address at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. 

Inauguration Day looked much different this year. All of Congress was invited to attend and could bring one guest, while members typically receive about 200,000 tickets to dole out to constituents.

The Washington Post estimated that around 2,000 people would attend the event, including 200 VIPs: families of the president-elect and vice president-elect, congressional leadership and several diplomats.

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