Free-Speech Cases Highlight New Term

As the Supreme Court begins its new term, it will be a baptism by fire for its greenest justice, Elena Kagan. In the coming months, the court’s docket features several potentially divisive First Amendment cases and both worry free-speech advocates. One is about anti-gay protests at military funerals and another will decide the fate of a California law banning the sale of graphically violent videogames to children. The new-look nine will also have to decide another kind of First Amendment case on the separation of church and state—does Arizona’s income-tax credit scholarship program, which directs state money to religious schools, constitute a violation? With Kagan’s appointment in place of Justice John Paul Stevens, the ideological makeup of the court is not expected to shift much. But one wrinkle added to this term by her appointment is that as former solicitor general, she has recused herself from 24 of the 51 cases the court has agreed to hear, leaving the door open for 4-4 splits.