Oyez, Oyez! Justice Elena Kagan Joins Supreme Court

Cases Scheduled on Death Penalty, First Amendment; Court term begins Monday

ByABC News
September 28, 2010, 4:04 PM

October1, 2010 -- Elena Kagan took her seat on the Supreme Court's bench today for the first time during a swearing-in ceremony attended by President Barack Obama and Washington's top legal and political dignitaries.

The President sat in the front row, flanked by retired justices Sandra Day O'Connor, David Souter and John Paul Stevens.

After the nine-minute investiture, Kagan went out the front doors of the court and, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, took the traditional walk down the white marble stairs.

Today was strictly ceremonial. In August Kagan took the oath of office in a private ceremony so that she could immediately hire clerks and begin reviewing cases.

The new term begins Monday.

Some of the cases this term include:

Most people agree that the protests by members of the Westboro Baptist Church at Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder's funeral were offensive, but the question is whether they were unconstitutional.

Members of the Church carried signs saying, among other things, "Thank God for dead soldiers," and "God hates Fags" during a protest near the funeral. Snyder, who was not homosexual, was killed in Iraq in March of 2006.

Snyder's funeral was only one of many the church has targeted across the country because its members believe the deaths of soldiers are related to the sins of Americans. Snyder's father, Albert, sued in federal court, claiming that members of the church invaded his family's privacy and inflicted emotional distress. The elder Snyder won $5 million. But a federal appeals court overturned the ruling, agreeing with the Westboro Church that its protest was "rhetorical hyperbole" protected by the First Amendment.

Albert Snyder brings his son's case to the Supreme Court, arguing in part that the court "should not extend First Amendment protection to outrageous, intentionally harmful, expressive conduct targeted at private individuals."

At issue is a California law restricting the sale of violent video games to minors. Lawyers for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger say the games, in which players can kill, maim, dismember or sexually assault the image of a human being, should be banned for sale to minors.

In court papers, lawyers for the makers of the games say the California law is the "latest in a long history of overreactions to new expressive media." They argue that it is not the role of government to decide which media are worthy of Constitutional protection, and that parents don't need the state's assistance in deciding which expression is worthwhile for their children. A lower court sided with the industry.