The Supreme Court kicked its new term Monday, holding oral arguments and welcoming back a former colleague.
The justices by law and tradition resumed their public sessions on the first Monday in October, after a three-month recess.
They heard a pair of separate appeals dealing with age discriminations claims, and the legal fallout from a major investor "Ponzi" scheme by Texas financier Allen Stanford.
Watching from the special visitor's gallery was Sandra Day O'Connor, who served on the court from 1981-2006. She maintains small chambers in the building and usually attends several oral arguments each term -- as an observer only.
The court also issued a massive orders list, disposing of more than 2,100 pending appeals that had been piling up over the summer. Among the cases the justices rejected for review:
Argentina v. NML Capital, Ltd. (12-1494) - Whether Argentina broke a contractual promise to treat all bondholders equally, as it faced repayments from its 2001 default on the national debt. The South American nation and some hedge funds have been battling for years in court over the refusal of some investors to accept two debt restructuring offers. Federal courts had said Argentina could not settle its sovereign debt obligations until it also paid the holdouts. The high court's refusal to intervene now does not preclude a future appeal, as the case moves forward in the lower courts.
Big Sky Colony, Inc. v. Montana Department of Labor and Industry (12-1191) - Whether a religious group can claim an exemption to provide workman's compensation insurance to its members. The Hutterite Christian community of farmers holds all possessions in common and have limited contact with the larger society.
Al-Marri v. Berkebile (13-105) - A former "enemy combatant" held by the United States again asked the court to answer whether a civilian arrested in the United States could be held indefinitely in military custody-- without charges. After his 2001 arrest in Illinois, Qatari native and graduate student Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri was held for years at a Navy brig north of Charleston, South Carolina. He was accused, but never charged, with being an al-Qaeda "sleeper agent." His lawyers challenged his continued incarceration. The issue now was whether al-Marri can relitigate his claims as he sits in a federal prison.
Jeffries v. U.S. (12-1185) - Challenge over what constitutes a "threat." Franklin Delano Jeffries II was involved a decade-long custody dispute with his ex-wife. On the eve of a court hearing, he uploaded a YouTube video where he sang his composition, "Daughter's Love" and went off on tirades: "And when I come to court this better be the last time. I'm not kidding at all, I'm making this video public. 'Cause if I have to kill a judge or a lawyer or a woman I don't care. Take my child and I'll take your life. I'm not kidding, judge, you better listen to me." He was later convicted of making threats to a public official.
In re Warren Hill (12-10469) - Lawyers for a Georgia death row inmate had asked the high court to hears claims of his mental retardation. The original Writ of Habeas Corpus was unusual, bypassing lower court review with a direct appeal to the justices. His supporters claim Hill's IQ is only 70, making him ineligible for lethal injection. His planned executions in February and July were stayed at the last moment. Hill was convicted of the 1986 murder of his girlfriend, who was shot 11 times. He was then given a death sentence four years later, after fatally beating a fellow inmate with a nail-studded board as the victim slept.