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Elena Kagan Takes Her Seat as 112th Supreme Court Justice

3 years ago
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President Obama was on hand Friday to witness the formal investiture of Elena Kagan, the 112th Supreme Court justice and the fourth woman to be named to the high court.

Kagan repeated the oath of office as she took her seat on the court, wearing a black robe she received as a gift from her former colleagues at Harvard Law School.

The event in the Supreme Court chambers was largely ceremonial, as Kagan officially was sworn into office nearly two months ago after the Senate confirmed her 63-37 on Aug. 5 on a mostly party-line vote.

Kagan, 50, the former dean of Harvard Law School and until recently the nation's solicitor general, was chosen by Obama to succeed retired Justice John Paul Stevens. Like Stevens, she is expected to be a liberal voice on the court, which often splits 5-4 in favor of conservatives.

The court, which begins its new fall term on Monday, will hear cases involving the Westboro Baptist Church and free speech issues, state bans on video games, and the death penalty. Appeals which may reach the court in the next couple of years include Arizona's immigration reform law, California's ban on same-sex marriage, and states' challenges to the U.S. health care reform law.

Kagan joins current female justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor. The first woman in the court's history, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who retired in 2005 sat at Friday's brief ceremony with the president and retired justices Stevens and David Souter.

In his State of the Union speech earlier this year, with the justices in the audience, Obama criticized the court for its decision to allow unlimited campaign contributions by corporations. But he was greeted Friday by Chief Justice John Roberts, who said, "You are always welcome here," the New York Times reported.

For Obama, Friday's 2 p.m. ceremony followed a much different gathering earlier in the East Room of the White House, where the president said good-bye to his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, whom he called and "incomparable leader . . . who we will miss very much." Emanuel is poised to run for mayor of Chicago.

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