Lights go out at the U.S. Supreme Court; Chief justice said, “I knew we should have paid that bill”

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U.S. Supreme Court

WASHINGTON — The lights went out in the Supreme Court briefly on Tuesday during oral arguments.

“I knew we should have paid that bill,” Chief Justice John Roberts quipped.

Lit only by the sun coming in through the large windows and a bulb on the podium, arguments continued.

Justice Elena Kagan was midway through a sentence with Curtis Gannon, assistant to the Solicitor General, in a case concerning registration for sex offenders.

The lights slowly dimmed until they were completely off. About four minutes later, the lights gradually came back on.

It’s not the first time Roberts has cracked a joke over the Court’s lighting.

In 2005, just weeks into his time as chief justice, a light bulb exploded over Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg when she was addressing a lawyer. The light bulb — 44 feet above her head — rained down a tiny spray of glass and causing police officers to scramble amid the momentary confusion.

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor quickly figured out what had happened, telling the audience, “A light bulb exploded. A light bulb exploded.”

Then Roberts spoke up.

“It’s a trick they play on new chief justices all the time,” he said, bringing huge laughter. “We’re even more in the dark now than before.”