The Supreme Court is set to begin its new term as it ended the last one, down one justice and ideologically deadlocked on a range of issues.
The absence of a ninth justice since Antonin Scalia's death in February has hamstrung the court in several cases and forced the justices to look for less contentious issues on which they are less likely to divide by 4-4 votes.
It could be several months, at least, before the nation's highest court is again operating at full strength.
"It's a very interesting time at the court. That doesn't necessarily translate into interesting cases. In fact, it may translate into the opposite," said Paul Clement, the Bush administration's top Supreme Court lawyer and a frequent advocate in front of the court.