The Court yesterday issued its final orders of October Term 2009. The Washington Post"™s Robert Barnes characterizes the Term as an "assertive" one for the Court, with Chief Justice Roberts playing a dominant role. The Wall Street Journal"™s Jess Bravin characterizes Justice Kennedy as the "[C]ourt"™s true compass." He acknowledges that Justice Roberts was in the majority more often than Justice Kennedy, but stresses that "on the most contentious cases, it was Justice Kennedy who cast the deciding vote."

The conclusion of the Term also marks the end of Justice Stevens’ service as an active Justice. Bravin describes Stevens’ evolution into the leader of the Court"™s liberal wing, noting that last month Stevens concluded, "there was no way to apply the death penalty in accord with constitutional guarantees." (Thanks to How Appealing"™s Howard Bashman for a link to the full text of the article.) Stevens"™ tenure concluded with a capital case, Sears v. Upton, in which the Court granted certiorari and vacated the death sentence of a convicted kidnapper. Capital Defense Weekly and Courthouse News Service both have coverage of the case, which is headed back to Georgia"™s Supreme Court.

Some of the Court"™s other actions are also attracting attention. The Court granted certiorari in Chamber of Commerce of the United States v. Candelaria, which concerns a statute sanctioning employers who hire undocumented immigrants. Ruthann Robson highlights the Ninth Circuit"™s opinion at Constitutional Law Prof"™s Blog. The Court declined to grant certiorari in Pfizer, Inc. v. Abdullahi, effectively allowing families to sue Pfizer for allegedly testing a drug on Nigerian children without consent. The Christian Science Monitor"™s Warren Richey has coverage, as does Law360"™s Erin Marie Daly. At Courthouse News Service, Maria Dinzeo describes another case that the Court declined to hear, effectively upholding a San Francisco health-care plan that requires employer expenditures towards the goal of covering low-income residents of the city. Law360"™s Shannon Henson also highlights the Court"™s vacating of two honest-services based convictions, in light of its recent decision in Skilling v. United States.

In addition, some of the Court"™s recent opinions are still being evaluated.

The editorial board of the Los Angeles Times opines that the Court"™s decision in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez could lead to "bizarre results, such as a Jewish group having to admit Christians or a pro-life group being required to let abortion-rights activists seek leadership positions." At PrawfsBlawg, Rick Garnett laments the Court"™s opinion, which he believes embraces the idea that the government has an interest in imposing "dissent" or "dissonance" on a religious organization, in order to teach its members "respect for difference."

At the Washington Post, Peter Whoriskey discusses the Court"™s decision in Bilski v. Kappos, which "relaxes limits on innovations that can be patented." The Wall Street Journal"™s Brent Kendall and Don Clark report that the Court left "inventors and lawyers without clear guidance on what types of business methods could qualify for protection under patent laws."

The editorial board of the Washington Post praises the Court"™s result in the petition-signatory anonymity case, Doe v. Reed. But it fears that the Court "left open a worrisome possibility: Petition signers could block disclosure on a case-by-case basis if they convince a judge that they will be subject to harm if their names become public."

Finally, speculation continues about the effect of the Court"™s decision in the Second Amendment incorporation case,  McDonald v. Chicago. Sentencing Law and Policy"™s Douglas Berman highlights an AP piece, "which reviews the state gun restrictions that might soon be subject to post-McDonald litigation"

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