I doubt that the presence of Sonia Sotomayor will make much difference in the way the Supremes decide things this term -- although news reports say she was active in questioning on the first day the court heard cases yesterday. Kennedy will continue to be the justice to whom lawyers direct their arguments and he will likely continue to side with the "liberal" bloc sometimes and the "conservative" bloc more often.
As this Register editorial explains in truncated form, however, it should be an intersting term. The Hillary Movie case, with the potential to disassemble a good deal of the restrictions on the practice of democracy known as "campaign finance reform," has been argued. There's a cross on federal land in the Mojave Desert likely to further confuse church-state jurisprudence. There will be a couple of terrorism-related cases, one involving designating a "humanitarian" organiuzation as providing "material support" to a terrorist organization. And perhaps most interesting, Maloney v. Chicago, which challenges Chicago's strict gun laws in the wake of Heller, which pronounced the right to bear arms an individual, not a collective, militia-conditioned right. Heller applied to the District of Columbia, a federal enclave. The question is whether that right will be "incoporated," as most of the Bill of Rights have been by the courts, to apply to states and municipalities. Don't look to me for predictions. Not yet. Maybe I'll get foolish as I read reports on oral arguments.