The Supreme Court is beginning a new term Monday, with justices returning to the courtroom for the first time since coronavirus disruptions began last year to hear in-person oral arguments on a number of potential blockbuster cases involving abortion, guns and campaign finance.
The justices — with the exception of Brett Kavanaugh, who will take part remotely after testing positive for COVID — will begin their nine-month term in the courtroom after hearing arguments by teleconference since March 2020.
The building is still closed to the public.
The high court, with a 6 to 3 conservative majority, returns amid criticism that it allowed a Texas law that bans abortion after six weeks to stand, leading some to fear the justices will overturn the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationally.
Democrats accused the justices of abusing the “shadow docket,” or rulings on cases made on an emergency basis without oral arguments, with the Texas decision.
The carping led Justice Samuel Alito to hit back at critics, arguing that the media and some politicians are using the term “shadow docket” to insinuate that “something sneaky and dangerous” is taking place on the court.
“The catchy and sinister term ‘shadow docket’ has been used to portray the court as having been captured by a dangerous cabal that resorts to sneaky and improper methods to get its way. And this portrayal feeds unprecedented efforts to intimidate the court or damage it as an independent institution,” Alito said in a speech last week at the University of Notre Dame.
One of the most scrutinized cases the court will take up this term is a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.
Lower courts in Mississippi blocked the ban, but the Supreme Court agreed to review those rulings.
The justices will also hear arguments on New York State’s gun permit law that restricts who has the right to carry a firearm in public.
The decision could expand gun rights in the US.
It will also hear a challenge from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on campaign finance rules limiting repaying a candidate for federal office who loans his campaign money.
Another case involves parents in Maine who sued over the state’s excluding religious schools from a tuition program for families who live in towns that don’t have public schools.
With Post wires