By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court appointee took the first of two oaths on Monday to be sworn in, with the private ceremony to be followed by another at the White House as new justice Neil Gorsuch restores the court’s conservative majority.
Trump earned the biggest political victory of his presidency and fulfilled a major campaign promise when the Republican-led Senate voted on Friday to confirm the federal appeals court judge from Colorado to the lifetime job. With Gorsuch, the court will have five conservative justices and four liberals.
“He will be a great Justice,” Trump said in a Twitter post on Saturday. “Very proud of him!”
Gorsuch, 49, was the youngest Supreme Court nominee since Republican President George H.W. Bush in 1991 picked Clarence Thomas, who was 43 at the time. Gorsuch could be expected to serve for decades, while Trump could make further appointments to the high court to make it even more solidly conservative because three of the eight justices are 78 or older.
Gorsuch took his constitutional oath, administered by Chief Justice John Roberts, in a private ceremony at the Supreme Court with the other justices. Gorsuch’s wife, Louise, and his two daughters were present, said Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg. Louise Gorsuch held a family Bible as her husband took the oath, Arberg said.
Gorsuch will take his judicial oath at 11 a.m. (1500 GMT) in a White House Rose Garden ceremony with Trump. The oath will be administered by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, for whom Gorsuch worked as a clerk as a young lawyer. Gorsuch will become the first justice to serve alongside a former boss.
All the other members of the court are due to be at the ceremony, including liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who called Trump “a faker” last year during the presidential campaign but later said she regretted the remark.
The Senate, which last year refused to consider Democratic former President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland, voted 54-45 to confirm Gorsuch. The vote brought an end to an almost 14-month battle over a vacancy created by the death of conservative justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016. Scalia’s widow, Maureen, and one of their sons were present at the swearing-in ceremony at the court, Arberg said.
Once sworn in, Gorsuch can prepare for the next round of oral arguments, starting on April 17, at the court, whose current term ends in June.
He will also participate in the justices’ private conference on Thursday to consider taking new cases. Appeals are pending on expanding gun rights to include carrying concealed firearms in public, state voting restrictions that critics say are aimed at reducing minority turnout, and allowing business owners to object on religious grounds to providing gay couples certain services.
Gorsuch could also play a vital role in some cases on which his new colleagues may have been split 4-4 and therefore did not yet decide. Those cases potentially could be reargued in the court’s next term, which starts in October.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)