The U.S. Supreme Court opened its new term Monday short one justice following the death early this year of Antonin Scalia and the Senate’s gridlock over how to replace him.
The court had a low-key start with another three justices absent for the day to observe the Jewish New Year holiday. The court is federally mandated to open on the first Monday in October, but because of the absences of the Jewish justices – Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg – the court will not hear its first oral arguments until Tuesday.
The court convened Monday for only about five minutes, mostly devoted to admitting new attorneys to the Supreme Court bar. The court also rejected hundreds of appeals that had accumulated over the summer.
The Supreme Court is likely to be without a replacement justice throughout much of its term which runs through June, as the court awaits the results of the November 8 presidential election and the inauguration of the new president in January. Senate Republicans have refused to move forward with President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland, arguing that the next president should fill the vacant seat.
The next president might also make other appointments as several aging justices may contemplate retirement. Three justices are older than 75 – liberal Justice Stephen Breyer is 78, conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy is 80 and liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 83.
The court is currently divided with four liberals and four conservatives.
One of the appeals the court rejected Monday is the Obama’s administration’s request for the court to rehear a major immigration case that the high court had split 4-4 in June. The decision blocks Obama’s plans to shield millions of undocumented immigrants who are in the country from being deported.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest expressed disappointment about the decision. «Republicans in the Senate need to confirm a ninth justice to the Supreme Court so that the business of the American people can be conducted at the Supreme Court,» he said.
The justices also declined Monday to reopen an investigation in Republican Governor Scott Walker’s campaign against a recall effort in 2012.
In addition, they refused to consider an appeal from the Washington Redskins football team challenging a law that bars the team’s trademarks because it is offensive to some Native Americans.