After rejecting nearly 2,000 appeals, the nation's highest court will hear a handful of cases involving freedom of religious expression.
Kicking off the new term Monday, the High court gave pro-life groups a defeat and a victory by turning away two cases.
In the first case, he court rejected the third appeal of pro-life activists who were trying to overturn a $16 million judgment against them.
The defendants had used "wanted" posters placed in public places identifying abortion clinic doctors as guilty of crimes against humanity. The signs also listed their addresses and telephone numbers. Earlier appeals were also rejected by the court in 2006 and 2003.
In the second abortion-related case case, the Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling that will let people in Arizona get license plates that say "Choose Life." A federal appeals court ruled that denying the slogan on license plates would be a violation of free speech.
The Court will also hear from Pleasant Grove City, Utah who want to stop a religious group known as Summum from placing a display in a public park that already has a Ten Commandments monument.
A federal appeals court found that the city violated Summum's free speech rights when it refused to display the group's Seven Aphorisms.
"The Supreme Court is faced with what we believe is an easy choice: preserve sound precedent involving the well-established distinction between government speech and private speech -- or permit a twisted interpretation of the Constitution to create havoc in cities and localities across America," said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice. Sekulow will present oral arguments to the high court on behalf of Pleasant Grove.
"We're hopeful the high court will correct a troubling decision that ultimately would force local governments to remove long-standing and well established patriotic, religious and historical displays," he said.
In other cases to be heard this term, the justices will also hear: the FCC fining stations for one-time use of profanity on live television, drug maker liability, limiting the use of Navy sonar, and the case of a military detainee who claims he has been mistreated while in federal custody.
Experts say the possibility of one or more justices retiring could be the biggest development this term.
"Given the large number of vacancies that will occur in the next four to eight years, and given the stark differences in their philosophies on what judges should do," said the Committee for Justice's Curt Levey.
But the biggest story concerning the high court may come with next month's election between John McCain and Barack Obama. The almost opposite social and political positions of the candidates would have a great impact.
"The direction of the court really for the next generation or more is going to be determined by who wins this election," Levey explained.
Levey believes John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter are likely to retire first.
So what would happen if Obama picks the new justices?
"You would then have three of the four liberal judicial activists would now be young instead of old," Levey said. "So it would mean very little chance of moving the court significantly to the right probably in our lifetime. If McCain were president and he replaced those three with people who are more in the judicial restraint school, then I think it would change the Court dramatically," he said.
Other Possible Decisions
The justices also could decide to add three more cases to the court's docket.
A Voting Rights Act challenge in Texas -- a government board in Austin formed to provide local services for 3,500 people say Congress had no constitutional right to pass a bill attempting to remedy past discrimination.
Enemy combatant -- The Court will review whether the Bush administration has the authority to capture and detain suspected enemy combatants.
Judicial ethics -- A West Virginia Supreme Court Justice's decision to remain involved in a $76.3 million case involving a key booster of his 2004 election campaign.
Source: The Associated Press, Wall Street Journal.com, CBN News