The Supreme Court ends its work Monday with the highest of drama: an anticipated retirement, a ruling on the constitutionality of government Ten Commandments displays and decisions in other major cases.
Traditionally there is an air of suspense as the justices meet for the final time before breaking for three months. Justices usually wait until then to resolve blockbuster cases.
Added to that is the expectation that Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist is presiding over the court for the last time. Rehnquist has thyroid cancer and many court experts believe his retirement is imminent.
“There’s enormous drama and anticipation. Is he going to announce his resignation? Are we going to spend this summer in a confirmation fight?” said Erwin Chemerinsky, a Duke law professor.
Long lines have formed several hours before the court’s recent sessions so people could get a seat in the packed courtroom. On Monday, the crowd will include supporters and opponents of Ten Commandments monuments. Supporters usually gather outside the court praying and singing hymns.
“It’s a big day. History being made, that’s a lot of what it’s about,” said Maureen Mahoney, a Washington lawyer and former Rehnquist law clerk.
Also expected are nine women in judicial robes who call themselves “Roe Rangers,” to bring attention to uncertainty about the court’s makeup and abortion rights.
Justices have a few cases left to resolve, including two of the most-watched of the term: the Ten Commandments appeals from Texas and Kentucky and a case that will determine the liability of Internet file-sharing services for clients’ illegal swapping of songs and movies.
Also Monday, justices are expected to announce whether they will hear appeals from two journalists who may face jail time for refusing to reveal sources in the leak of an undercover CIA officer’s identity (Valerie Plame).
Lawyers for Time magazine’s Matthew Cooper and The New York Times’ Judith Miller have asked the court to clarify protections reporters have in keeping sources confidential.
The cases could not be heard until December.
The Supreme Court term already has covered cases involving the execution of teenage killers, state bans on Internet orders from out-of-state wineries and federal sentencing rules.