WASHINGTON -- Anthony Kennedy was sworn in today as the 104th Supreme Court justice, marking the official conclusion of the long and bitter battle to fill the seat vacated almost eight months ago.
During a brief ceremony in the court's ornate chamber, Kennedy placed his right hand on the family Bible and pledged to 'do equal right to the poor and to the rich' and to 'faithfully and impartially discharge all the duties' of an associate justice on the high court.
The judicial oath was administered to Kennedy by Chief Justice William Rehnquist. A second ceremony was scheduled for later in the day at the White House where Kennedy was to take the constitutional oath required of all federal employees.
At a photo session in the morning, Kennedy said he was eager to attend his first conference Friday when the justices will take action on hundreds of pending cases.
'I worked last night and will work again tonight,' said Kennedy flanked by his wife, children and other family members. 'I'm ready, ready for tomorrow morning.'
Moments earlier, Kennedy and Rehnquist had descended the marble steps of the Supreme Court. He stood in front of the steps and shook hands with Rehnquist and chatted privately before Rehnquist retreated and Kennedy's family appeared.
Kennedy said he and his wife have found an apartment in the District of Columbia where they will live until they find a house.
Kennedy was President Reagan's third choice to succeed Justice Lewis Powell. The 51-year-old conservative, a federal appeals court judge in California, was nominated Nov. 11, breezed through confirmation hearings in December and gained final Senate approval on a 97-0 vote Feb. 3.
Powell, who retired June 26 after more than 15 years of service, often cast the swing vote on a high court generally divided between conservatives and liberals. He often sided with the liberals to provide 5-4 victories against Reagan on issues such as abortion, school prayer and affirmative action.
Powell's retirement gave the president what may be his last chance to reshape the court in his own conservative image. But Reagan and conservative advisers, including Attorney General Edwin Meese, dropped the ball.
Their first nominee, Robert Bork, then a 60-year-old judge on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, sparked months of acrimonious debate and was defeated in the Democratic-led Senate on a 58-42 vote Oct. 23. Opponents portrayed him as a right-wing ideologue who would help roll back decades of equal protection advances by minorities and women.
The president's second choice, Douglas Ginsburg, a 41-year-old conservative colleague of Bork on the Washington appeals bench, was nominated Oct. 29 but became an embarrassing withdrawal Nov. 7 under a cloud of conflict-of-interest allegations and admissions that he smoked marijuana as a law professor.
Only then did Reagan turn to Kennedy, considered less doctrinaire than the other two. His early reception by senators indicated he would have no problem.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on which Kennedy has served is the largest and busiest in the country, covering nine Western states and Pacific territories. Until Reagan appointees began filling vacant positions, the court also had the reputation of being the most liberal in the nation, and its opinions frequently were overturned by a more conservative Supreme Court.
Kennedy, however, has solid conservative credentials although he has written few decisions or articles as controversial as those by Bork.
The lanky, bespectacled Kennedy was born July 23, 1936, in Sacramento, the son of a lawyer. When he was 10, he was the first page the state Senate ever had, and he later jested that cigar smoke from those legislative days stunted his growth. He was graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University in 1958 and from Harvard Law School in 1961.
Kennedy worked in private practice in San Francisco before returning to Sacramento when his father died two years later to take over his general business practice. He was a partner in the Sacramento firm of Evans, Jackson & Kennedy when President Ford appointed him to the federal bench in 1976.