Gorsuch thanks Trump as he takes oath as Supreme Court justice
New Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch went to the White House on Monday to take a second oath and to publicly thank President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, the lawyers in the White House counsel’s office and Republican Senate leaders for helping put him on the nation’s highest court.
“This process has reminded me of just how outrageously blessed I am,” Gorsuch said in the Rose Garden ceremony.
There has been some controversy in the last decade over whether it was appropriate for a newly confirmed justice to be sworn in at the White House. Retired Justice John Paul Stevens said such ceremonies gave the appearance that the new justice was going to the court as the president’s appointee rather than as an independent justice.
Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan took their oaths at the Supreme Court and did not go to the White House for a public ceremony. When they had a ceremonial investiture in the courtroom, President Obama attended. But in previous decades, the newly confirmed justices routinely went to the White House to take the oath alongside the president.
At the Rose Garden ceremony, the president said he was proud and pleased to have chosen an outstanding jurist to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia. “I got it done in the first 100 days!” he said.
“This is a very, very special moment,” Trump told Gorsuch as he was about take the oath. “I have no doubt you will go down as one of the truly great justices in the history of the United States Supreme Court.”
Gorsuch survived an unusually partisan battle. Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), refused to consider Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee, and they were forced to change the filibuster rule to confirm Trump’s nominee after Democrats sought to block a vote on Gorsuch.
Earlier Monday, Gorsuch took the constitutional oath in a private ceremony at the Supreme Court. He then went to the White House to take a second “judicial oath” in a public ceremony.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the seven associate justices were in attendance at the Rose Garden ceremony, and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy administered the oath to Gorsuch, who served as his law clerk in the 1993-94 term.
Gorsuch will soon be hearing and deciding cases involving the Trump administration, including possibly whether to uphold the president’s temporary travel ban on people from six majority-Muslim nations. Two federal judges decided to put the ban on hold, and lawyers for the administration are appealing.
Trump used the ceremony to tout the changes he has brought to Washington. “We are in a process of reviewing and renewing, and also rebuilding, our country. A new optimism is sweeping across our land, and a new faith in America is filling our hearts and lifting our sights,” he declared.
The president also praised Justice Kennedy as “a man of outstanding accomplishment. Throughout his nearly 30 years on the Supreme Court, [he] has been praised by all for his dedicated and dignified service. We owe him an enormous debt of gratitude, and I am honored that he is with us today.”
Kennedy, 80, is now the longest-serving justice. And though a Republican appointee, he has been somewhat of a disappointment to conservatives. Last year, he joined with the court’s liberals to strike strict abortion clinic regulations from Texas, and the year before, he wrote the landmark decision making same-sex marriage a constitutional right.
If Kennedy were to retire in the next few years, it would give the president and Senate Republicans the opportunity to give conservatives firm control of the court. As if to reassure Kennedy, Trump’s lawyers have mentioned several of his former law clerks as strong candidates for the next Supreme Court nomination.
On Twitter: DavidGSavage
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