Neil Gorsuch officially admitted to Supreme Court

Thursday's ceremony formally installed Gorsuch on the United States' highest court.
By Doug G. Ware  |  June 15, 2017 at 5:04 PM
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June 15 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump visited the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday for the official introduction of Neil M. Gorsuch on the high court bench.

During the formal and symbolic ceremony, Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein submitted the official commission for Gorsuch, who was nominated by Trump in January and sworn-in about two months later.

"The commission has been duly signed by the president of the United States and duly signed by the attorney general of the United States," Rosenstein said.

The attorney general typically participates in the investiture of a new Supreme Court justice, but Jeff Sessions is traveling in Europe.

Several former attorneys general -- including John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales and Edwin Meese -- and retired high court justice John Paul Stevens attended Thursday's ceremony at the Supreme Court building in Washington. A number of Republican senators were also present.

Investitures -- or formal introduction ceremonies -- for Supreme Court justices can vary individually. Some nominees have taken a single oath but most have been administered two -- one to uphold the U.S. Constitution and one to dispense justice equally.

The locations of the ceremonies have also varied historically by justice. Gorsuch previously took an oath at the White House following his Senate confirmation.

At Thursday's event, Gorsuch sat in a leather chair for most of the six-minute ceremony and subsequently stood to shake hands of his colleagues on the bench before repeating the oath.

Though Gorsuch, a former Colorado-based federal appeals court judge, has been on the high court bench since April 10, he has not participated in most of the court's decisions in that time. Earlier this week, he delivered his first opinion as an associate justice.

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., was the only Democrat to attend Thursday's ceremony.

"He's from Colorado. He's on the Supreme Court," he said afterward.

Gorsuch, 49, became the focus of a highly partisan battle in the Senate after his nomination, as Democrats chose to try and stall the president's appointment and Republicans responded by changing the rules of procedure to get around their filibuster.

Bennet expressed disappointment with the way Gorsuch's approval process was handled.

"I think it's a shame the Democrats filibustered. And I think it's a shame the Republicans responded by invoking the nuclear option," he said. "I'm worried. I'm very worried."

Democratic resistance to Gorsuch stemmed from former President Barack Obama's failed nomination of Merrick Garland to replace late justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016 -- an appointment that was scuttled by Republicans in the Senate who refused to initiate confirmation hearings.

Gorsuch participated in four days of confirmation hearings in late March and was finally confirmed on April 7 by a vote of 54-45. All Republican senators and three Democrats voted in his favor.

Thursday's investiture came at a time the high court is considering a plea from the Trump administration to revive an executive order barring U.S. entry for refugees worldwide and migrants from six largely Muslim nations in the Middle East and Africa.

The president's second version of his so-called "travel ban" has been defeated in multiple federal courts since it was introduced in March. Tuesday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the order and said Trump exceeded his authority by failing to demonstrate how allowing refugees and immigrants into the United States will cause harm or undermine national security.

As soon as Thursday's ceremony ended, acting solicitor general Jeffrey Wall submitted an appeal to the high court arguing that the lower federal court rulings were wrong to block Trump's order.

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