The Supreme Court formally welcomed Justice Elena Kagan to the bench on Friday in a ceremony in the Court chamber that marked the third time she has been sworn in. With President Barack Obama looking on, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. welcomed Kagan as the 100th associate justice in the Court's history and wished her a "long and happy" career on the Court. Kagan said "thank you," the only words she uttered during the brief ceremony, followed by the bang of the gavel adjourning the Court's brief special session.
Kagan took two oaths on Aug. 7 that legally launched her tenure, but at Friday's event, her official commission signed by Obama was introduced by Attorney General Eric Holder Jr and read into the record by Court Clerk William Suter. A beaming Kagan was escorted to the bench by Deputy Clerk Cynthia Rapp, Roberts swore her in again, and then she went to her seat at the far end of the bench. By tradition, the chief justice sits in the center chair, flanked by justices alternating left and right by seniority. So the new lineup, left to right as you face the Court, is Sotomayor-Breyer-Thomas-Scalia-Roberts-Kennedy-Ginsburg-Alito-Kagan.
In the audience was a who's who from the judiciary, the Obama administration, and Harvard and senators including Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) The three retired justices were also on hand: Kagan's predecessor John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O'Connor, and David Souter. Taking seats in the Court just before Obama entered were White House Counsel Bob Bauer and others from his office including Donald Verrilli and Susan Davies. Next to Holder was Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal.
Spotted in the spectators' rows were former Harvard president Lawrence Summers, who appointed Kagan as dean of Harvard Law, along with Harvard colleague Elizabeth Warren, and Kenneth Feinberg, the administrator of the BP oil spill fund. Also: 9th Circuit chief judge Alex Kozinski; Kevin Baine, onetime colleague of Kagan's at Williams & Connolly; Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher partner Miguel Estrada, a longtime friend of Kagan's; former attorney general John Ashcroft; and former acting solicitor general Walter Dellinger.
Also notable was Roberts' warm greeting of Obama as the session began. Roberts noted his presence and said, "You are always welcome here." As is the way of Washngton, whatever friction might have resulted from Obama's rebuke of the Court in the State of the Union address in January was set aside for the sake of comity between branches.
After the ceremony, Roberts walked Kagan down the front steps of the Court for the traditional press photo opportunity made necessary by the fact that no press cameras were allowed inside the Court for the actual ceremony. As Kagan stood at the bottom of the steps for the cameras, a photographer asked her if she was ready for Monday, which is the beginning of the fall term. "All set" was Kagan's smiliing reply.