Newly appointed Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh had a rushed private swearing-in ceremony shortly after the Senate voted to confirm him on Saturday night. A public ceremony will happen on Monday. Although it’s not unusual for a public ceremony to happen a couple days or so after a private swearing-in ceremony for the Supreme Court, many people noted that it felt like Kavanaugh’s private ceremony had been rushed. And although it was rushed when compared to the last three, he’s not the first Justice to be sworn in privately on the same day that he was voted to the Court.
Supreme Court Justices must all take two oaths before serving. One is a 62-word oath required by all federal judges, and the other is a constitutional oath.
Kavanaugh took both of his oaths in a private ceremony hours after the Senate voted to confirm his nomination. The Supreme Court said in a statement that both oaths were administered “so he can begin to participate in the work of the Court immediately.” A formal investiture ceremony will take place at a special sitting of the Court at a later date. A public, ceremonial swearing-in ceremony for Kavanaugh will happen Monday night, Fox News noted.
Although Kavanaugh’s oaths seem rushed, are they really? A quick look at the past Supreme Court Justice oaths reveal that there’s no set pattern for how they happen. The most recent three Justices were sworn in two to three days after they were confirmed by a vote. So in that sense, Kavanaugh’s was rushed. But his quick oath isn’t without precedent. When Alito was voted to the Court in 2005, he took both his oaths privately on the same day and had a formal ceremony later.
Here is a look at how other Supreme Court Justice oaths have worked.
When Neil Gorsuch was voted to the Supreme Court on April 7, his swearing-in ceremony was three days later on April 10. Justice Anthony Kennedy administered Gorsuch’s judicial oath in the White House Road Garden. Earlier that day on April 10, Chief Justice John Roberts administered a private oath for Gorsuch. Pat Ward of Fox News later noted that a “ceremonial swearing in” for Kavanaugh will take place on Monday evening.
Meanwhile, Elena Kagan’s public, formal ceremony in 2010 happened two days after she was voted in as Supreme Court Justice by the Senate. She was privately sworn in just before her public, televised swearing-in ceremony. The day after her confirmation, President Barack Obama had a televised celebration for her in the White House. Obama did not attend her public ceremony, but he did attend her party the day before. She took a judicial oath for a second time during a formal investiture ceremony on Friday, October 1.
Sonia Sotomayor was voted in by the Senate on August 6, 2009. President Obama commissioned her on the same day. She was sworn in two days later on August 8, 2009, by Chief Justice John Roberts in the East Conference Room. Her ceremony was the first televised swearing-in ceremony for a Supreme Court justice. In a private ceremony just before, she took a separate constitutional oath. A formal investiture ceremony was held on September 8.
When Justice John Roberts was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 2005, he was voted in by the Senate on September 29 by a wide margin of 78-22. According to SupremeCourt.gov, he took both of his oaths of office that same day and both were administered by Associate Justice John Paul Stevens. On October 3, he was administered the judicial oath again during a special sitting of the Court.
When Samuel Alito was appointed in 2006, the Senate voted to confirm him on January 31. He took both oaths the same day in a private ceremony attended by members of the Supreme Court. The next day, he took the constitutional oath a second time publicly in a ceremony hosted by President George W. Bush. He then had an investiture ceremony on February 16.