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Supreme Court opens pivotal term with Trump nominee in place

Updated: 
October 1, 2017 - 8:46pm

WASHINGTON — Disputes over a wedding cake for a same-sex couple and partisan electoral maps top the Supreme Court’s agenda in the first full term of the Trump presidency. Conservatives will look for a boost from the newest justice, Neil Gorsuch, in a year that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has said will be momentous.

President Donald Trump’s travel ban appears likely to disappear from the court’s docket, at least for now.

But plenty of high-profile cases remain.

The justices will hear important cases that touch on gay rights and religious freedoms, the polarized American electorate, the government’s ability to track people without search warrants, employees’ rights to band together over workplace disputes and states’ rights to allow betting on professional and college sporting events.

Last year, “they didn’t take a lot of major cases because they didn’t want to be deadlocked 4-to-4,” said Eric Kasper, director of the Center for Constitutional Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. “This year, that problem doesn’t present itself.”

Gorsuch quickly showed he would be an ally of the court’s most conservative justices, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, most recently joining them in objecting to the court’s decision to block an execution in Georgia.

Beyond the cases is the perennial court guessing game: Is anyone retiring?

Ginsburg and Kennedy, 81, are the court’s oldest justices. Kennedy’s plans are anyone’s guess. Some of his former law clerks have said they wouldn’t be surprised to see him leave the court as early as June.

Ginsburg turns 85 in March, at which point she’d become just the sixth justice to serve beyond that milestone birthday.

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