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Washington – In Supreme Court phone arguments about robocalls, Justice Stephen Breyer says he got cut off when someone tried calling him.

Breyer said after he rejoined the court’s arguments Wednesday: “The telephone started to ring, and it cut me off the call and I don’t think it was a robocall.”

The court was hearing its second argument of the day by telephone because of the coronavirus pandemic. It was a free speech case involving a law aimed at protecting consumers from unwanted telemarketing calls.

Earlier in the day, the justices heard a case that involves the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that most insurers cover contraceptives for women.

The court on Wednesday spent an extra 40 minutes beyond the allotted one hour for the first argument. It heard about Trump administration plans to make it easier for employers to get out from the requirement in the Obama-era health care law to provide women covered by their health insurance plans with cost-free contraceptives.

The justices took a break of only a couple of minutes before beginning the second set of phone arguments, about whether a 1991 law protecting consumers from unwanted telemarketers violates the First Amendment.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been participating from a Maryland hospital where she’s being treated for an infection caused by a gallstone.

The court said Tuesday evening that the 87-year-old justice had undergone non-surgical treatment for a benign gallbladder condition. 

Ginsburg’s first question was a lengthy one, essentially saying the Trump administration tossed “to the wind” the requirement in the Affordable Care Act that women have seamless access to no-cost contraceptives.

Because of Ginsburg’s seniority on the court she has been third to ask a question during this week’s telephone arguments, following Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas. But Thomas apparently was having some technical difficulties when Roberts first called on him. Instead, Thomas followed Ginsburg with questions.

The court says Ginsburg is expected to be in the hospital for a day or two. It has said some justices are participating in arguments from home while others are at the court.

The phone aspect is unprecedented for the High Court, which again urged lawyers to use a landline, not a cellphone.

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