Abortion, birth control and race are among the most divisive issues confronting the Supreme Court over the next nine months as the court’s new term begins Monday.
The term will play out against the backdrop of a presidential campaign in which some candidates are talking pointedly about the nine justices and the prospect of replacing some of them in the next few years.
The justices are returning to the bench for their first public appearance together since a number of high-profile decisions in June that highlighted passionate — sometimes barbed — disagreements, and suggested bruised feelings.
Justice Anthony Kennedy probably will play a decisive role in the most important cases to be heard by the court. He wrote the decision last term that extended marriage rights to same-sex couples nationwide.