WASHINGTON -- Maybe their robes are water-repellent.
No matter that the rest of Washington was shut tight to await Hurricane Sandy, it was business as usual Monday at the Supreme Court.
The justices took the bench at the customary start time of 10 o'clock EDT to hear scheduled arguments.
The court is an independent branch of government that court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said does not necessarily follow what the rest of the government is doing. And parking's never a problem -- the justices have spots in the court's underground garage.
The court apparently is making a concession to the weather, nevertheless. The court announced that it would reschedule Tuesday's argument for Thursday "due to weather conditions related to Hurricane Sandy."
Among the business before the court Monday:
The Supreme Court seemed skeptical of a government request to throw out a lawsuit challenging an expansion of a surveillance law used to monitor conversations of foreign spies and terrorist suspects.
While the law is aimed at foreigners, a lawyer argued Monday that Americans are getting caught up in the government monitoring. They want to sue to stop the 2008 expansion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Lawyer Jameel Jaffer said his colleagues are already taking costly measures like flying overseas instead of using telephones and e-mails to keep their conversations private.
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli argued the lawyers are just speculating that their communications could be tapped under the expansion, which doesn't give them enough standing in court to sue.
Justices will make a decision next year.
Texas death row appeal
The Supreme Court won't hear an appeal from a Texas death row inmate condemned for fatally shooting a firefighter.
The high court on Monday refused to hear an appeal from Elroy Chester. Lawyers for Chester say he is mentally impaired, making him ineligible for execution under U.S. Supreme Court guidelines for the 1998 shooting death of Willie Ryman III. Ryman was trying to keep Chester from raping his two nieces at their Port Arthur home when he was killed.
Prosecutors have argued that Chester was not mentally impaired.
Chester, who has been linked to at least five murders and three rapes, pleaded guilty to Ryman's slaying.
Supreme Court justices are weighing copyright protections for publishers, creative artists and manufacturers in a global marketplace in a case that has attracted the interest of Costco, eBay and Google. The outcome has important implications for consumers and multibillion dollar annual sales online and in discount stores.
In arguments Monday, a book publisher faced off against a Thai graduate student in the U.S. who resold the publisher's copyrighted books on eBay after relatives first bought nearly identical, cheaper versions abroad.
The court seemed to struggle with whether it matters where the books were produced and first sold.
The justices' answer to those questions is of enormous interest to discount sellers like Costco and online business like eBay and Google that offer good prices on many products that were made abroad.
Voting rights case
Three years ago, the Supreme Court warned there could be constitutional problems with a landmark civil rights law that has opened voting booths to millions of African-Americans. Now, opponents of a key part of the Voting Rights Act are asking the high court to finish off that provision.
The basic question is whether state and local governments that once boasted of their racial discrimination still can be forced in the 21st century to get federal permission before making changes in the way they hold elections.
Some of the governments covered -- most of them are in the South -- argue they have turned away from racial discrimination over the years. But Congress and lower courts that have looked at recent challenges to the law concluded that a history of discrimination and more recent efforts to harm minority voters justify continuing federal oversight.
The Supreme Court took no action Monday on cases asking it to end the Voting Rights Act's advance approval requirement that has been held up as a crown jewel of the civil rights era.