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Justices to Weigh Free Speech, Environment in New Term

On Monday, the Supreme Court opened its new term with a docket of wide-ranging cases on issues from broadcast indecency to environmental protection. Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal explains what's on the agenda for this term and speculation over upcoming justice retirements.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And finally, on this first Monday in October, a new term at the U.S. Supreme Court, with Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal.

    Marcia, welcome again.

  • MARCIA COYLE, National Law Journal:

    Thanks, Jim. Nice to be back.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    As always. In general, what are the expectations about this new court session?

  • MARCIA COYLE:

    Well, Jim, the term is opening on a relatively low keynote. And by that I mean there are no obvious blockbusters, as we saw last term, with the Second Amendment gun case, and Guantanamo Bay, and several big death penalty cases.

    But having said that, I've seen terms begin like this before. And something can come along suddenly, a case — if you recall in 2000, the presidential election and the ballot dispute in Florida produced the memorable Bush v. Gore decision, so it can change rather quickly.

    But just because we don't have obvious blockbusters doesn't mean that the court also doesn't have very significant cases. And the way I look at a term is I try to see what areas of the law it seems to perhaps be able to do something very significant in.

    So I see four clear areas here. It's a potentially huge term for the environment. There are five cases, which is a large number on a small docket. And we'll see the first of those on Wednesday, when the court hears arguments involving the Navy's use of very sophisticated sonar and its impact on marine mammals.

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