August 7th, 2010
02:10 PM ET
13 years ago

Kagan takes oath, prepares for several high-profile cases

Washington (CNN) - Elena Kagan, building on a long, diverse legal career in government and academia, was officially sworn in as the 112th justice at the Supreme Court on Saturday, promising to "faithfully and impartially" discharge her new judicial duties.

With friends, family and four of her new colleagues looking on, the 50-year-old Kagan took the judicial oath in the court's wood-paneled West Conference Room. It was only the second time such a ceremony was televised at the court.

Chief Justice John Roberts administered the 62-word oath, required of all federal judges. In a private ceremony just moments before, Kagan took a separate constitutional oath across the hall. Both are necessary for her lifetime job to become official.

Kagan beamed as she waved to relatives and guests when walking in for the public ceremony. Among those in the ornate room were her two brothers, as well as former colleagues from the Justice Department, where she served as solicitor general before being tapped by President Obama for the high court on May 10.

The Bible used in the two-minute ceremony is owned by Justice Stephen Breyer, who was not in attendance.

Roberts told the audience of about 70 that Kagan can "assume her duties as an associate justice and begin work right away."

"Congratulations," he said afterward to rousing cheers. "On behalf of my colleagues, welcome to the court. We look forward to serving with you in our common calling."

Kagan made no statements and did not answer questions.

The newest justice can now start moving into her chambers and preparing for the upcoming fall term. The court is in the middle of a three-month recess, but Kagan must be available to handle any emergency appeals, such as a request for a stay of execution.

Kagan will soon formally hire four law clerks. She also will have two secretaries and a messenger to assist her.

Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Sonia Sotomayor were also on hand for the swear-in ceremony. So, too, was John Paul Stevens, whom Kagan replaces on the bench.

A special guest was Cissy and Thurgood Marshall Jr., the widow and son of the late Justice Thurgood Marshall. The diminutive Kagan clerked for him in 1987-88, where she earned the affectionate nickname "Shorty" from the legal and judicial pioneer.

The Senate confirmed Kagan 63-37 on Thursday on a mostly party-line vote. Obama, who did not attend the swearing-in, hosted his nominee at a White House reception Friday, telling her that as the third woman on the current court, it "will be a little more inclusive, a little more representative, more reflective of us as a people than ever before."

Kagan in her brief remarks at the White House promised "to work my hardest and try my best to fulfill these commitments and to serve this country I love as well as I am able."

Democrats continued to praise Kagan as an accomplished, articulate lawyer who had earned support from people across the political spectrum. Many Republicans cited her lack of judicial experience, and predicted she would become a judicial "activist," reinterpreting the law to conform with her own liberal political beliefs.

Kagan was born in Manhattan in 1960, one of three children of a lawyer father and schoolteacher mother. She graduated from Princeton University undergraduate and Harvard Law School.

While never a judge herself, Kagan's resume is broad: work on Michael Dukakis' 1988 presidential campaign; a lawyer in private practice for two years; stints as a law professor and later, dean; four years as a legal and policy adviser in the Clinton White House; and most recently as solicitor general in the Obama Justice Department.

She supervised every federal appeal presented to the high court during her 16-months in the administration, and personally argued six cases before the same justices she will now count as colleagues.

Kagan joins a closely divided court that often splits in favor of a shaky 5-4 conservative majority. Despite no judicial record to draw clues on the kind of justice she would become, White House officials had quietly assured allies Kagan would be a "reliable" liberal vote similar to Stevens, the well-respected unofficial leader of the left-leaning bloc of the court.

She is, therefore, not expected to tilt the current ideological balance on the high court.

Among the cases she will confront in her first term beginning in October will be disputes over noisy protests at military funerals, state bans on violent video games and the death penalty. High-profile appeals that may reach the court in the next couple of years include Arizona's sweeping immigration reform law; California's ban on same-sex marriage; and a challenge to health care mandates passed by Congress this spring.

Here are the two oaths Elena Kagan took Saturday:

Constitutional oath: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God."

Judicial oath: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm), that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent on me, under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God."

Filed under: Elena Kagan • Supreme Court
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. jeff jackson, alabama

    Don't be shocked at her future actions.
    Remember, this is the lady who said at
    Duke University that a judges' role is to
    set policy.
    Most liberals think that also, but her role is
    to interpret laws already made by legislation.
    This is why we need civics classes taught in
    our schools.
    Richard Dreyfus, a liberal with sense, has been
    saying that for years.

    August 7, 2010 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  2. normajean

    GOOD!. She sounds like a strong intellegent woman who will take this position seriously and not be swayed into going along with anything she does not fully agree to. I really believe that she has the strength of personality to be an asset to the court.There are those who don't read anything but the comics who still say, that she hasn't spent time as a judge, well, a very large number, some of our most noted SC justices also had not been judges.Congratulations to her and the court.

    August 7, 2010 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  3. NvrAgnRepub

    Congratulations to Ms. Kagan. How exciting that the Supreme Court is getting closer to a realistic representation of national demographics. May she serve her nation with honor and a long tenure.

    August 7, 2010 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  4. Lynn

    Considering the status and role of women in the Muslim world, hope our message of equality for all, resounds around the world.

    August 7, 2010 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  5. Bob

    I don't know why they make any of these justices take oaths anymore. All any of them do, on both sides, is legislate based on their agenda or political leanings. They are pathetic to think we believe them to be impartial. It does not exist anymore.

    August 7, 2010 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  6. Peter s

    Excellent intelligent woman with courage to take a stand of what she belives in!!!. Excellent choice and congratulations to you Elena Kagan! may the Almighty Yahweh bless you with more wisdom.

    August 7, 2010 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  7. angel

    Good Luck! Congrats to SCJ Kagan. She has earned the right to our respect and to be given the opportunity to be a SCJ. The court is now beginnning to look like the AMERICA we all claim that it is. The land of opportunity for all. As a female, I am elated that she has been confirmed and will a part of the fabric that represents a better America. The fact that she has not been a a judge isn't important. Some of the judges formerly and presently serving were never judges either. Why is it now a concern that she never served as a judge? Probably because she was the selected nominee of President Obama and not President Bush! Shame on the Republicans for allowing themselves to become labeled as the party of NO. I commend those Republicans who supported Ms. Kagan's nomination and voted for her confirmation.

    August 7, 2010 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  8. Save America, impeach the treasonous republicans

    But jeff, the supreme court is setting policy now, and that crap has to stop.

    August 7, 2010 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  9. Willy Brown

    Another unqualified person appointed by the unqualified in chief

    August 7, 2010 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  10. Frank from Gilroy

    She'll be great for the court!
    Sad to say that of all the things Bush screwed up, his Supreme Court appointments may be the worst thing he did. Talk about activists: Classifying corporations as individuals overturning 100 years of judicial precedents does get any more activist. Maybe Roberts, Alito, Scalia or his boy Thomas check out earlier than expected for the good of the country.

    August 7, 2010 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  11. the real ib

    I have no problem with her being a woman just have a problem with her far out beliefs. Another justice that will try to re-write the constitution to suit her beliefs. Sad day for this country.

    August 7, 2010 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  12. Keith in Austin

    Congrats Judge Kagen! We hope you keep the US Constitution sacred
    and above your Liberal-activist tendancies.

    August 7, 2010 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  13. carlos

    and remember women of america.....the republicans in the senate, with some exceptions, swore to vote against a for them, and you will get your share too, also, do not believe what the alaska amateur will tell you, she is in for herself alone, just trying to milk you pun intended

    August 7, 2010 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |

    Civics is taught in our schools... it is a requirement for graduation! What we dont need is indoctrination taught in our schools, and sometimes we come very close to that, don't we!

    August 7, 2010 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  15. all of America

    Kagan will rule on personal beliefs rather set laws, she confirmed that when she was asked that about the 2nd amendment in conformation hearings,she is another one of obamas democratic ideologs ,that's why he picks these people. Judges are not there to set laws or circumvent the constitution like obama would like, they are there to define them.

    August 7, 2010 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  16. p

    great, another communist on the court. can't wait for november 2010 and november 2012. get ride of these freaking socialists in our government and get our country back. i know cnn isn't going to post this because they are the Communist News Network, in bed with obama the socialist. idiots!!!!

    August 7, 2010 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |