The Supreme Court begins its fall term today on the verge of significant change in its caseload, among the lawyers who argue before it, and possibly even in its membership, says Legal Times. By the end of the term in June, the Court may have decided more cases than it has in a decade. More of those cases than ever will be handled by lawyers or professors affiliated with law school clinics — unheard of just four years ago. Three justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg — are seen as the most likely candidates to step down. At a William & Mary law school conference Sept. 26, former acting Solicitor General Walter Dellinger III predicted all three will go if Sen. Barack Obama is elected, and “no one will voluntarily step down” if Sen. John McCain is elected.
“The Court is at a tipping point,” says Thomas Goldstein, head of litigation at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, who launched the first Supreme Court legal clinic at Stanford Law School in 2004. On Nov. 4, when the rest of the nation will be focused on the presidential election, the Court will hear arguments on the fleeting use of the “s-word” and “f-word” in television broadcasts by the likes of Nicole Richie, Cher, and Bono. Carter Phillips, representing Fox Television, says he won’t use euphemisms for those words at argument. The fact that the Court does not close for presidential elections also symbolizes its aloofness from the business of the other branches. The election will no doubt have a major effect on the Court.