The Supreme Court returned to session this morning in accordance with a long-held tradition of opening the annual term on the first Monday in October. The recent changes to the Court’s composition, coupled with the potential impact of the decisions looming on the horizon, promise to make this session a particularly interesting one.
Specifically, though the Supreme Court remained unchanged in the eleven years between 1994 and 2005, the last four years have borne witness to three new justices — including a new Chief Justice and the Court’s first Hispanic member. Because Justice Sotomayor replaced Justice Souter — who was typically viewed as being fairly liberal — the Court’s idealogical make-up, which has generally been characterized as being evenly divided between liberals and conservatives, is expected to remain unchanged. However, until Justice Sotomayor’s idealogy unfolds itself in the coming term, the truth behind this prevailing wisdom will remain in question.
In addition to cases concerning gun rights, animal cruelty, and freedom of political speech, the Court is slated to decide Bilski v. Doll: a case concerning the patentability of a formula for buying and selling commodities on Wall Street. By determining the scope of business method patents, the case has the potential to drastically impact the protection that will be afforded to software and biotechnology.
It’s no surprise then that the “Supreme Court’s new session has court-watchers curious.”