BY VOA NEWS — The U.S. Supreme Court has begun its latest term with new member — Justice Elena Kagan — making her debut on the nine-member panel.

The court spent its first hours turning down appeals on a variety of cases.

Kagan took her place on the bench Monday, but she has recused herself from at least 24 of the more than 50 cases the court has accepted for this term. There are potential conflicts of interest with her previous job as U.S. solicitor general – the lawyer who presents the government’s side to the justices.

Her absence creates the potential for the eight remaining justices to have a split 4-to-4 decision in those cases.

The chairman of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has proposed legislation that would allow the Supreme Court to replace a recused justice by voting to designate a retired justice to fill in.

Kagan won Senate confirmation in August to replace John Paul Stevens, a liberal-leaning justice who retired after 34 years on the court. Her debut also marks the first time three women are serving on the top court together.

Some notable cases on the court’s agenda for this term include disputes about anti-gay protests at funerals of U.S. soldiers and a California law banning the sale of violent video games to children.

Some information in this story was provided by AP and Reuters.

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