The court welcomes justice Sonia Sotomayor, the third woman and first Hispanic on the panel. She replaces David Souter but isn't expected to swing the ideological balance of the body, which generally has four justices considered liberal, four conservative and one -- Anthony Kennedy -- a swing vote.
The court's first week will feature argument on whether videos of animal cruelty have the free-speech protections provided by the First Amendment. Also referencing a clause of the First Amendment, the court has ordered arguments regarding whether a cross erected on public land to honor war dead represents an endorsement of religion. The Supreme Court's Second Amendment case involves the constitutionality of state and local gun ownership restrictions.