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All that’s missing now is an abortion case. After bulking up the Supreme Court’s docket on Sept. 25 with 17 additional cases, the justices head into their new term Oct. 1 facing a full array of hot button issues — executive power, death penalty, Internet free speech — that will continue to measure just how far to the right the Roberts Court is heading on the eve of a presidential election. Last term was widely viewed as a sharp turn by the Court in a conservative direction. But this term might be different. At least one keen Court-watcher predicts that simply because of the different lineup of cases this term, by next June it will be conservatives, not liberals, who will be angry at the Supreme Court. “The take-away from this term will be much less conservative,” says Supreme Court specialist Thomas Goldstein of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, who caused a stir by predicting more liberal outcomes in a post on his widely read SCOTUS blog. He cautions that he is not predicting a liberal shift in the justices as such, but merely that by looking at the Court’s highest profile cases one by one, the liberal side may win in many of them. “The justices and their views will be exactly the same come June 2008,” Goldstein says. “It is the cases that will be different.” [Note: Goldstein writes "Conference Call" for Legal Times.] American Civil Liberties Union legal director Steve Shapiro disagrees, calling Goldstein’s analysis “a misreading of this Court.” While agreeing there may be “fits and starts” in the Court’s rightward course, Shapiro says the addition of John Roberts Jr. and Samuel Alito Jr. to the Court makes the trend line unmistakable. “It is clear this Court has become significantly more conservative.” Shapiro is trying to keep some ACLU cases from getting to the Court as a result. Clues may come as soon as Oct. 2, when the Court considers Kimbrough v. United States, testing how much sentencing discretion judges have in the wake of the 2005 ruling that made federal sentencing guidelines advisory. The issue arises in the sharply controversial context of the 100-to-1 ratio between prescribed sentences for possessing crack as opposed to powder cocaine. A judge in Virginia said it would be “ridiculous” to abide by that disparate treatment for defendant Derrick Kimbrough. The U.S. Sentencing Commission has called for greater parity between sentences for crack and powder cocaine, but Congress has not acted. Speaking at an American Constitution Society forum on the Court Sept. 26 at the National Press Club, Harvard Law School professor Carol Steiker predicted Kimbrough will prevail — producing the “liberal surprise” headlines that Goldstein foresees. At the same time at a competing Federalist Society briefing in a room nearby, former federal prosecutor William Otis was predicting a defeat for Kimbrough just as confidently. Other “litmus test” cases set for argument in coming months include:

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