WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court began its new term Monday by turning away hundreds of appeals, including Virginia’s bid to revive its antisodomy law.
The justices took the bench just past 10 o’clock on the first Monday in October, even as much of the rest of the government was coping with a partial shutdown.
Chief Justice John Roberts formally opened the new term without any reference to the partisan impasse over the budget and the new health care law that his vote helped uphold in 2012.
The court has announced it will operate normally at least through the end of this week. The justices are scheduled to hear six arguments, including a challenge to limits on campaign contributions.
Among the appeals denied Monday was Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s request to review a federal appeals court ruling that threw out the state’s ban on oral and anal sex. Ten years ago, the Supreme Court struck down the Texas antisodomy law in a case involving two adults. Virginia argued that the Texas ruling did not apply to sex acts between adults and minors.
The justices did not comment in rejecting that argument Monday.
The court also declined to hear, at least for now, Argentina’s appeal of a ruling that orders it to pay hedge funds that bought some of the country’s unpaid debt from its default in 2001. The country is continuing to pursue its case in federal court in New York and could file another appeal with the Supreme Court.
The new term may be short on the sort of high-profile battles over health care and gay marriage that marked the past two years, but the court already has agreed to hear important cases about campaign contributions, housing discrimination, government-sanctioned prayer, and the president’s recess appointments.
Abortion, contraceptive coverage under the new health care law, and cellphone privacy also may find their way onto the court’s calendar. Several of those cases ask the court to overrule prior decisions — bold action in an institution that relies on the power of precedent.
However, the justices will be writing on a blank slate when they take up the president’s recess appointment power under the Constitution.
In that case, the court will confront an appeals court ruling that effectively would end the president’s ability to make such appointments, if it is left standing.
Former Justice Department official Peter Keisler said that justices often ask a lawyer for the best case in support of his argument. ‘‘No one is going to ask that question because ‘t’aint none.’ No Supreme Court decisions are material here,’’ said Keisler, a partner at the Sidley, Austin law firm in Washington.
The impasse that led Obama to install members of the National Labor Relations Board and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director Richard Cordray in office without Senate confirmation has been resolved. So what remains of the issue is whether Obama and his successors will be constrained in the future.
The topic splits Democrats and Republicans, but their view of the matter is almost entirely dependent on which party controls the White House.
In other action Monday, the high court declined to review several other cases:
■ The court won’t hear an appeal of a Florida lawsuit making it easier for sick smokers or their survivors to pursue lawsuits against tobacco companies. It refused to hear an appeal from Philip Morris USA Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., and Liggett Group LLC. They wanted the court to consider overturning a $2.5 million Tampa jury verdict in the death of smoker Charlotte Douglas.
The state courts said tobacco companies knowingly sold dangerous products and hid the hazards of cigarette smoking, and ruled that individual smokers can file their own suits but don’t have to prove those factors again in their cases. Plaintiffs still have to show they or their dead relatives were addicted to smoking, couldn’t quit and that cigarettes caused illness or death.
■ The justices won’t hear an appeal from former Newark, N.J., mayor Sharpe James, who was convicted in 2008 of illegally steering sweetheart land deals to his then-mistress and sentenced to 27 months in federal prison. He was released in the spring of 2010.