WASHINGTON -- Ruth Bader Ginsburg was publicly invested Friday as the 107th justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Two of the three branches of American government witnessed the ceremony.
President Clinton, Attorney General Janet Reno, Solicitor General Drew Days III and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee were present in the courtroom.
The eight other justices were seated behind the bench, separated by the antique ceramic spittoons that now serve as tiny wastebaskets.
Chief Clerk Bill Suter read Ginsburg's commission to the court and Chief Deputy Clerk Frank Lorson escorted the new justice to her seat behind the bench.
Each new justice takes two oaths. The Constitutional Oath was administered to Ginsburg as usual at the White House in August. She took the Judicial Oath, which differs slightly in context, on the same day in court chambers.
Friday morning she publicly swore the Judicial Oath again in a firm voice, pledging to 'administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich...'
Chief Justice William Rehnquist announced the federal appeals circuits that each justice would oversee. Ginsburg received the 10th U. S. Circuit, which includes Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Kansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.
When the more liberal Ginsburg received her circuit, Justice Antonin Scalia, a tough conservative but a warm personal friend, broke into a wide smile.
After the brief courtroom ceremony, Rehnquist escorted Ginsburg down the immense front steps of the Supreme Court building in the traditional walk to face the cameras.
Both wore business clothes instead of judicial robes. The robe Ginsburg wore earlier to take the oath had been the subject of considerable speculation. It came to mid-shin, slightly longer than the sensible short robe worn by Sandra Day O'Connor, and shorter than the flowing floor-length robes worn by the male justices.
Ginsburg's husband Martin almost missed the photo opportunity. He came briskly out of the main Supreme Court doors and down the stairs after the rest of the family had posed and left, just in time to be caught by news photographers.
Clinton's was the first presidential attendance at an investiture since President Ronald Reagan came in 1981 to witness O'Connor's, the first woman to sit on the bench. Ginsburg is the second.
The 60-year-old Ginsburg was already a justice, of course -- besides Rehnquist, each of the Supreme Court members is officially an 'associate justice' -- and has been participating in votes on emergency motions from the court.
She was born in Brooklyn, New York. She married her husband, Martin D. Ginsburg, now a professor of tax law at Georgetown University Law Center, in 1954. Martin Ginsburg's alleged lobbying on her behalf was the only blip in an otherwise flawless path to the court.
Ginsburg first came to prominence in the 1970s when she headed the Women's Rights Project for the American Civil Liberties Union. In a series of brilliant cases before the Supreme Court, she established the principle of sex discrimination -- she prefers to call it 'gender discrimination' -- in law.
President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the federal appeals bench in 1980. As a lawyer she was effective in stretching the Fourteenth Amendment to cover questions of gender. As a judge, she was far more cautious, and usually relied on Supreme Court precedent, regardless of whether she agreed with it or not.
When Justice Byron White announced he was retiring earlier this year, myriad stories began appearing the national media, purportedly revealing the 'definite' choices that President Clinton would make to fill the seat that would become vacant at the end of June. All of them proved wrong.
Ginsburg was a popular choice. In July, she was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee without a dissenting vote. She was confirmed by the full Senate almost unanimously.