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US Supreme Court opens with historic changes

The Supreme Court is in the midst of a significant transformation after eleven years with the same lineup of justices. Since 2005, four new members have joined the court, two on the conservative side and two on the liberal side.

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Chief Justice John Roberts, right, and the court's newest Justice Elena Kagan, stand for photographers after a formal investiture ceremony for Kagan at the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, Oct. 1.

Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP

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Offensive protests at military funerals, a ban on the sale of violent video games to minors, and an effort in Arizona to police the hiring of illegal immigrants are among the top cases confronting the US Supreme Court in its 2010-2011 term.

The high court’s new term, which begins Monday and runs through June, is also notable because it will provide the first genuine insight into what kind of justice Elena Kagan will become. Ms. Kagan won Senate confirmation in August to replace retired Justice John Paul Stevens.

The Supreme Court is in the midst of a significant transformation after eleven years with the same lineup of justices. Since 2005, four new members have joined the court, two on the conservative side and two on the liberal side.

The recent arrival of Kagan brings a heightened sense of expectation to the term with historic change taking root. Three of the nine justices now are women.

At the same time there is an air of uncertainty. This is the first time in 35 years the Supreme Court begins its work without Justice Stevens on the bench.

“No one who is sitting on the court has ever sat without Stevens as a colleague,” Washington lawyer Jerrold Ganzfried told a briefing at the Washington Legal Foundation. “That is going to be a big change.”

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