Now she can be addressed as Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. The 55-year-old native of the Bronx, the first Hispanic on the Supreme Court, was sworn in at noon Saturday before a nationwide television audience by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., with her mother Celina holding the Bible. As soon as Sotomayor repeated the final phrase of her judicial oath, "so help me God," Roberts said, "Congratulations and welcome to the Court." Sotomayor embraced her proud mother and her brother Juan.
It was a brief ceremony in the Court's east conference room, with portraits of the early chief justices looming above, and about 60 friends and family in the audience. She entered with Roberts after taking the constitutional oath in private at the justices' conference room. Roberts explained to the crowd that Sotomayor's formal investiture would take place Sept. 8, but she was being sworn in now "so she can begin work as an associate justice without delay."
Also among those attending, according to a press pool report, was White House Counsel Gregory Craig and assistant counsel Cynthia Hogan, as well as Judge Robert Katzmann of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a longtime colleague, and Rep. Nydia Velasquez, D-NY.
The judicial oath, which has remained roughly the same since the Judiciary Act of 1789, was full of phrases that seemed to resonate for Sotomayor in particular, given the confirmation debate over the role of empathy in her decision-making. She pledged to administer justice "without respect to persons," and to "do equal right to the poor and to the rich." Roberts seemed nervous at times in prompting the oath for Sotomayor. He read the text from a piece of paper -- unlike the presidential oath he administered from memory for President Barack Obama on Jan. 20, with mixed results.
After the oath, Sotomayor shook hands with Justice Anthony Kennedy -- the only other justice in attendance -- and others in the front row, and she exited the room with Roberts, now part of the nation's highest court.
This article first appeared on The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times.