Rookie Justice Elena Kagan and her 8 colleagues begin the Supreme Court's '10 term facing a raft of social issue questions that could determine the potency -- or impotence -- of Pres. Obama's entire agenda.
-- The Court will rule on an extremist church's protests outside military funerals, which will dominate headlines. But watch the cases that will be a part of the national debate in future election cycles -- and we're not even talking about CA's Prop. 8, which is all but guaranteed its day before the Roberts Court.
-- An AZ immigration law from '07 that enforces penalties on businesses that hire undocumented workers will presage legal challenges to the state's new, highly controversial law, and 10th Amendment questions that case raises could impact the dozen or more health care lawsuits in the pipeline. Legal experts will also pay attention to the Court's verdicts on federal regulations, which will hint at the Court's direction when a health care challenge does reach the top.
-- Justice John Paul Stevens' retirement didn't change the Court ideologically, but Kagan and her 3 liberal colleagues are left searching for a new identity. Whether they can woo Justice Anthony Kennedy in key cases will determine whether the Court is truly balanced, or if it's slipping right.
If the 4 liberals become a demonstrative minority this term, Obama's problems with the Supremes may soon extend far beyond Citizens United.