In political spotlight, Supreme Court embarks on extraordinarily controversial term

The Supreme Court embarks Monday on what could be an extraordinarily controversial term, with its justices on the defensive, its actions and structure under a political microscope and abortion — the most divisive issue of them all — taking center stage. Before the term ends next summer, the justices will have weighed in on three major public policy disputes — guns, religious rights and possibly race, if the court takes up a request to once again review affirmative action in university admissions. Another change on the court is possible: Justice Stephen G. Breyer, 83 and nominated by President Bill Clinton, faces increasing pressure to retire while another Democrat is in the White House and the party has a tenuous hold on the Senate. And a presidential commission on the Supreme Court, taking testimony on the court’s power and proposals to add seats to the court, limit justices’ lifetime tenure and require more transparency, is due to report to President Biden next month. “The spotlight will be shining brighter on the court this term than perhaps any other since Bush v. Gore ,” in 2000, said Pratik A. Shah, a Washington lawyer who argues before the Supreme Court. And the background for it all will be the issue that has vexed the political and judicial branches for decades. Republican-led states and antiabortion activists are asking the court to overrule the constitutional guarantee of abortion it established nearly 50 years ago in Roe v. Wade , and reaffirmed 20 years later […]

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