Today opens the new term of the United States Supreme Court and, by all accounts, is a term that promises to offer plenty for court watchers to talk about. Just a cursory review of the petitions pending include cases involving protesting military funerals, illegal immigration, privacy rights, and support for religious schools. Many of these cases will be featured here at Care2 as the briefing and arguments unfold.
This term will be notable for a number of other reasons as well. Ever since the controversial Citizens United decision the decisions, and indeed the personalities of the Supreme Court justices have become a greater focal point of public attention. Chief Justice John Roberts has seemingly caught his leadership stride as the Court has moved further and further to the right under his guidance. There’s no reason to think this term will be any different.
This term will also mark the first for former Solicitor General Elena Kagan as a sitting Supreme Court justice. Her impact may be mollified somewhat as she has already recused herself from a significant number of cases pending before the Court, leaving open the possibility of a 4-4 split on many controversial issues. To address this situation Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee introduced legislation to allow the court to assign a retired justice to hear cases when an active justice is disqualified. Ironically, it is the fact that the justices most likely to step in during such a situation, Justice David Souter and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, are widely seen as moderates has many wondering if the legislation stands a chance at passing given the highly partisan make-up of both the Senate and the confirmation process.
Needless to say, it promises to be an exciting term with plenty to write about. It’s rare that we get to witness so many significant issues before the court as we do this term and, regardless of the outcomes, bear witness to history in the making.
photo courtesy of dbking via Flickr