Kennedy Takes Seat; High Court at Full Strength : Reagan Praises Newest Justice for Consistence, Courageous Dedication

Associated Press

Anthony M. Kennedy took his place Thursday as the 104th Supreme Court justice in U.S. history, restoring the court to full strength for the first time in eight months and inheriting a pivotal vote on key issues.

“I do solemnly swear that I will administer justice without respect to persons and do equal right to the poor and to the rich,” Kennedy, 51, said in a brief courtroom ceremony witnessed by about 450 guests.

He then took his seat at one end of the high-court bench reserved for the newest member.

Takes Second Oath


After a private reception hosted by the court, Kennedy went to the White House to take a second oath of office in the presence of President Reagan.

“Justice Kennedy has shown a consistence and a courageous dedication to preserving ours as a government of laws, and that’s why I nominated him,” the President said.

“He won the respect of his colleagues and of the entire legal community,” Reagan added. “Lawyers and judges of all persuasions characterize him as fair, open-minded and scholarly.”

Kennedy gave a thumbs-up salute with both hands after the audience in the East Room of the White House applauded him after his oath-taking.

Will ‘Honor Constitution’

“The Constitution of the United States is the single idea, the single fact, the single reality, the single moral principle that sets the United States apart from other nations, now and throughout history,” Kennedy said. “I shall honor that Constitution.”

Kennedy was Reagan’s third choice to succeed Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr., who retired last June 26. His first choice, Robert H. Bork, was rejected in a bitter Senate battle and the next nominee, Douglas H. Ginsburg, withdrew after admitting that he smoked marijuana as a law professor.

Reagan did not attend the courtroom swearing-in ceremony. Also absent was Justice Thurgood Marshall, who was attending a meeting in Hawaii.


Seven justices were present as Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III, dressed in the traditional long-tailed morning coat, formally presented Kennedy’s commission of office to the court.

Hand on Family Bible

Kennedy, wearing a judge’s robe, placed his hand on the family Bible and recited the oath administered by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.

Rehnquist welcomed the court’s newest member by wishing him “a long and happy career in our common calling.”


Kennedy, who has been reading pending cases in preparation for his new duties, appeared relaxed earlier in the day as he posed for cameras outside the court building.

“I’ve been working. I’m ready for Monday,” when the court ends its current four-week recess, Kennedy said. He also said he was “elated” about joining the court.

Misses Sacramento

During the picture-taking session before his swearing-in, Kennedy said he misses his hometown of Sacramento but is “just delighted to be in Washington. The welcome has been very gracious.”


He joked about his many relatives as he stood with his wife, Mary, three children and more than 30 other family members.

Kennedy said that while he and his wife look for a permanent home they will live in an apartment in the nation’s capital.

“It’s not quite big enough for the whole family,” he quipped.

Kennedy is viewed as a moderate conservative with an open-minded approach to issues involving civil rights and individual liberties. But little is known about his specific views on abortion regulation, affirmative action, church-state relations or other politically sensitive issues on which the high court is closely divided.