As the Supreme Court prepares to begin its new term on Monday, the justices spent Friday afternoon reconvening at the courthouse to pose for the annual group portrait. Come, gaze upon a group of nine pajama-clad adults who collectively have both (1) a tremendous amount of power over the lives of hundreds of millions of people and (2) not a single fucking clue what to do with their hands.

Obviously there is a lot going on here: John Roberts positioning himself so that he looks like he’s wearing the shelf clock behind him as a horological pilgrim’s hat; Clarence Thomas apparently modeling his smile after a horror movie’s baseball game guerrilla marketing campaign; Amy Coney Barrett’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge that red is not her color; Brett Kavanaugh’s alarming transformation into the Madame Tussauds version of Jim O’Heir. It rules that in the middle of a hilariously public spat about who is to blame for the Court’s plummeting approval ratings, Elena Kagan and Sam Alito still have to show up for school picture day, stand side by side, and pretend like they don’t hate each other’s guts.

I have no idea why they decided it was a good choice to pose like they’re lined up to pick teams for the world’s lamest kickball game. I think my favorite part is the look on newcomer Ketanji Brown Jackson’s face, which is, to be fair, the exact expression I’d make if I had to stand with Roberts on one side of me and Alito on the other.

Anyway! For the last several weeks, we at Balls & Strikes have been looking ahead to some of the most consequential cases the Court will consider this term. (Oral argument in two of them, Sackett v. EPA and Merrill v. Milligan, will take place this week; our previews of those cases are below.) If you prefer listening to scrolling, I talked through the Court’s docket and its profoundly grim implications for the future of democracy with Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern on this week’s episode of the Amicus podcast, which you can listen to here. The three of us also spent some quality time discussing why legal journalism is so bad and how we might go about fixing it, because so far, my strategy of trying to personally cyberbully Noah Feldman into retirement has gone nowhere. Maybe this year. You never know.

As always, you can find us at, or follow us on Twitter @ballsstrikes, or get in touch via[email protected]. Thanks for reading.

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(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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