The Breakfast Table

SCOTUS end of term: Is this the most pro-speech court ever?

Is this the most pro-First Amendment court ever?

The Supreme Court building.
What big decisions will this week bring?

Photograph by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

Friends: Welcome all of you to the I-don’t-even-know-what annual Supreme Court Breakfast Table, a Slate tradition so longstanding, it predates both breakfast and tables. Welcome back Walter, Emily, Eric, and Judge Posner. And it’s a particular honor to welcome Laurence Tribe to the collective that will hash out the last few days of the 2013 term. We are pleased to have you!

The court will be handing down the nine remaining cases of the term in the next few days, likely today and Thursday, and possibly extending to Monday of next week. It’s been a fascinating term, and I hope we can talk about some of the cases that have already come down as we wait to hear what the morning holds.

The court has graciously held off on deciding some of the most contentious cases until our online klatch has been scrambled. We are expecting the two cases about whether the police can search the cellphone of a person who has been arrested, without a warrant; one about whether a state can require abortion protesters to stand 35 feet from the entrance to a clinic; Harris v. Quinn, which challenges the longstanding rule that unions can collect dues from workers who aren’t members, and a challenge to the president’s power to make recess appointments. Queued up behind all of that is the Hobby Lobby challenge, arguably the term’s blockbuster, in which Hobby Lobby and another company are challenging the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act, saying they don’t want to cover birth control for their employees because of the companies’ religious beliefs (or rather, the beliefs of their owners).

As if all that weren’t chewy enough, there is a bubbling political discussion about whether Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg should feel compelled to retire, in light of her age (81) and the possibility that—if she opts not to step down this week—she may be replaced by a President Ted Cruz, decisively tilting the Supreme Court further to the right. And if anyone has any thoughts about the recent denial of press credentials to SCOTUSblog, I would love to hear them; this seems a watershed moment to reflect on what constitutes legal journalism, and how it is and isn’t changing.

I welcome any thoughts you have in advance of today’s spills and chills, and wonder whether you think that the term—which promised in some ways to be a referendum on the legacy of Sandra Day O’Connor — turned out differently than we expected. Her visions regarding church/state separation, campaign finance, and affirmative action were shaken yet again this year. I wonder whether it matters that this is becoming the most speech-protective court we have known, and how that may shake out in the challenges to union dues, and the abortion clinic no-protest zone. I wonder, also, if it’s time to begin to draw conclusions about what Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan bring to the court, five and four years in, as they settle into their respective roles. Perhaps most urgently, in light of Justice Antonin Scalia’s recent confession about his generalized loathing of both Stravinsky and rock ‘n’ roll, what will each of you will be listening to in the morning, as you knock back your real breakfasts and wait for decisions to roll down?

Welcome all, it’s a delight to have you here at Slate, and I look forward to sharing the next few days with you.