The Latest: 8 justices appear divided on new term’s 1st case

In this Sept. 21, 2018, photo, the Supreme Court is seen in Washington. On Monday, the court will begin its new term with the crack of the marshal’s gavel and not a camera in sight. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the start of the Supreme Court’s new term (all times local):

11:40 a.m.

The Supreme Court has begun its new term with an argument over an endangered frog that appears to divide the four conservative and four liberal justices.

The high court is shorthanded because Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination remains in limbo while the FBI investigates allegations of sexual misconduct against him.

The case argued Monday morning concerns a dispute over Louisiana timberland that was designated as critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog, even though the frog is only found in Mississippi.

The conservative justices appeared sympathetic to the Weyerhaeuser Co. timber company that sued over the designation. The liberals seemed inclined to back the government.

The justices could hold onto the case and order a new round of arguments once the bench is full, or resolve the case narrowly.

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3 a.m.

The Supreme Court term starts Monday but is being overshadowed by the tumult over Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination.

The high court nomination hearing of Kavanaugh last week was filled with disturbing allegations of sexual assault and Kavanaugh’s angry, emotional denial. The FBI has reopened the background check for a week because of the assault claims.

Republicans had hoped to have Kavanaugh confirmed in time for the court’s first public meeting since late June, an addition that would cement conservative control of the court.

Instead, there are only eight justices on the bench for the second time in three terms, with a breakdown of four conservatives and four liberals.

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