Our annual look at the high court examines the numbers and trends that shaped the last term and will affect the term to come.

Another big decision before the new term
A quirky challenge that now has the potential to be an election law blockbuster will be in the cross hairs of the U.S. Supreme Court in September. The justices in June ordered reargument on Sept. 9 in Citizens United v. FEC, more popularly known as the “Hillary: The Movie” lawsuit. It will be the Elena Kagan’s first case before the high court in her new role as Solicitor General.

The case at the center of Citizens United
Nearly two decades ago, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and its lawyers argued a case designed to test the limits on corporate spending in elections. They lost in the Supreme Court. But now the justices will hear arguments in September on whether to overrule that 19-year-old precedent. The two retired lawyers who argued Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce reminisce about the case and one of them prepares to do battle again.

Taking stock of the high court term
Lawyers who argued some of the key cases of the 2008-2009 Supreme Court term analyzed some of the most-watched cases of the term and looked ahead to the upcoming one with Sonia Sotomayor likely joining the Court. Supreme Court correspondent Tony Mauro moderated the discussion which took place last month at Georgetown University Law Center.

Argument cycle dominated by veterans
More than one-fifth of the 78 arguments in the 2008-09 term were made by just four members of the Supreme Court bar. Meet the term’s heavy hitters, including one of whom, when the term officially ends, will have made an amazing seven arguments.



COMMENTARY

Accept more cases, TV coverage
In the era of the shrinking Supreme Court docket, denying petitions for certiorari may seem strategically expedient. But, in the end, the justices should not shirk their responsibility to say what the law is, writes Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.). Similarly, retaining the majesty and mystery of the Supreme Court as an institution may, at first blush, counsel against admitting television cameras. Yet it is only through observation of that venerable institution that an educated public can truly appreciate its significance.

Free from court decrees
The U.S. Supreme Court’s June 25 decision in Horne v. Flores gave newly elected governors and mayors something to cheer about. The high court’s rationale opens a door for officials in every state and most large cities to get out from ancient decrees controlling how they run many kinds of programs.

U.S. SUPREME COURT 2008-2009 TERM BY THE NUMBERS
(Click image for pdf.)

• Tracking a decade of unanimous decisions: last term finishes near the bottom in terms of agreement among justices

• Split Decisions: The justices split 5-4 in 22 of the cases decided this term

• U-Turn: A tally of lower court reverals.

• Justices’ Opinions: A breakdown of how each justice’s opinions were joined by the others.

• Bloc Party: A graph of the justices’ voting alignments.