Supreme Court, Sotomayor Face Contentious Issues in New Term

Sotomayor debuts on the court with a docketful of contentious cases.

ByABC News
September 28, 2009, 12:30 PM

Oct. 2, 2009— -- Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the most recent addition to the Supreme Court, has wasted little time getting ready for the 2009 term that officially begins next Monday.

She's moved into chambers, hired her clerks and participated in a rare argument -- technically from last term -- that was held in early September. She's danced the mambo with a Hollywood star, confessed in her first TV interview that she held her "beating heart" to calm herself when President Obama offered her the job and even threw out a pitch for her beloved Yankees.

She has had to face a dizzying array of briefs that piled up during the summer and now must confront a full docket for the fall.

The docket features a variety of cases ranging from the implications of religious symbols on public ground, a congressional statute banning the distribution of videos containing dog fighting, the constitutionality of life sentences for juveniles and whether the Second Amendemnt's right to bear arms applies to state laws.

On Sept. 9, the court came together for an unusual preterm sitting to hear a case that could change forever the influx of corporate money into the election system. At issue is a 2008 documentary called "Hillary: the Movie" -- a critical look at Hillary Rodham Clinton when she was a candidate for president. Citizens United, the conservative nonprofit advocacy group that made the movie, decided to distribute it through a video-on-demand service accessible to cable subscribers.

The Federal Election Commission banned the release, ruling that the movie was a so called "electioneering communication" -- comparable to an ad attacking a candidate -- and because it had been made with corporate funds was subject to restrictions imposed under the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. The court is examining whether it should revisit two court precedents dealing with the regulation of corporate spending.