Business, free speech cases top Supreme Court term

By MARK SHERMAN | June 25, 2011 | 9:15 AM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court's conservative majority made it harder for people to band together to sue the nation's largest businesses in the two most far-reaching rulings of the term the justices are wrapping up on Monday.

The two cases putting new limits on class-action lawsuits were among more than a dozen in which the justices divided 5-4 along familiar ideological lines.

Women made up one-third of the nine-member court for the first time ever this year. But missing from the court's docket was a case that could be called historic.

Next year and 2013 could look very different, with potentially divisive and consequential cases on immigration, gay marriage and health care making their way to the high court.

The makeup of the court, however, is not expected to change.