In a nine-minute, tightly choreographed ritual, Neil M. Gorsuch took the oath of office again as a Supreme Court Justice, with President Trump and the First Lady watching silently in a front row in the VIP section of the court’s ornate chamber. At the end of the oath, he recited the words, “So help me God,” with a special emphasis.
Gorsuch has actually been doing the work of a Justice since April 10 and has already written his first opinion for the court, but the court has a modern tradition – begun in 1970 — of holding a later, formal investiture for new Justices.
The courtroom seats were filled, with the new Justice’s family, former law clerks and friends, along with former U.S. attorneys general, and a large contingent of Republican Senators who had joined solidly in putting the Trump nominee on the court to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
The ceremony began with Justice Gorsuch entering the chamber, and then sitting in the chair that the nation’s most famous Chief Justice – John Marshall – had used on the bench from 1819 to 1835, according to court records.
The audience was asked to stand when the President and First Lady came in and took their seats, and again when the eight other Justices went to the bench.
Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein made a motion to have the formal document appointing Gorsuch to the court read by the court’s clerk, Scott Harris. Harris unrolled the thick parchment document, and read it, reciting the presidential signature at the bottom. With that symbolic act, Gorsuch formally became the 101st Associate Justice to join the court since its founding in 1789.
He was then escorted to the bench, and moved from colleague to colleague, shaking hands. As he did so, the audience broke into a hearty round of applause – something that long-time observers had never seen before at such a ceremony.
Before the ceremony, the President and First Lady signed the court’s guest book, and posed for pictures with the Justices. This was President Trump’s first visit to the court since taking office in January.
After the ceremony, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., escorted Justice Gorsuch down the court’s marble front steps, and they posed for pictures on the plaza, with Louise Gorsuch soon joining them, receiving a peck on the cheek from the Chief Justice and three kisses from her husband.
Legendary journalist Lyle Denniston is Constitution Daily’s Supreme Court correspondent. Denniston has written for us as a contributor since June 2011 and has covered the Supreme Court since 1958. His work also appears on lyldenlawnews.com, where this story first appeared. (Photo credits: Fred Schilling, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States)
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