WASHINGTON — Elena Kagan was sworn in Saturday as the 112th justice and fourth woman ever to serve on the Supreme Court.
Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath to Kagan in a brief private ceremony at the court. Kagan, joined by family and friends, pledged to faithfully and impartially uphold the law.
Afterward, she smiled broadly as a crowd of onlookers stood and applauded. "We look forward to serving with you," Roberts said.
Kagan, a former Harvard Law School dean who most recently was solicitor general, was President Obama's choice to succeed retired Justice John Paul Stevens. Republicans criticized her as a political liberal, before the Senate confirmed her this past week on a vote of 63-37.
She was sworn in twice Saturday by Roberts — reciting one oath as prescribed by the Constitution during a ceremony in a conference room at the court with only her family present. Kagan then recited a second oath, taken by judges, with her family and friends and reporters present.
Kagan won't be formally installed as a justice until Oct. 1 in a courtroom ceremony at the start of the court's new term. But after the oaths taken on Saturday, she will be able to begin assuming her duties as a justice, which include reviewing cases and emergency appeals filed to the Supreme Court.
Kagan, 50, joins Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor on the nine-member court, which often divides 5-4 on high-profile cases such as gun rights, discrimination and campaign finance. The first woman in the court's history, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, retired in 2005.
At least once a term for 13 years, Ginsburg recalled, some lawyer arguing before the Supreme Court would mistake her for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, or vice versa.
No matter that Brooklyn-born Ginsburg and O'Connor, raised on a ranch in Arizona, look and sound nothing alike.
The confusion arose because, even at the dawn of the 21st century, women on the court were "one- or two-at-a-time curiosities," Ginsburg said.
So she considered it progress that no one made that error after Sonia Sotomayor became a Supreme Court justice last year.
Now with Elena Kagan joining them on the bench for the start of the high court term in October, Ginsburg perceives an even bigger change.
"We are one-third of this court," Ginsburg said during an interview with the Associated Press in her Supreme Court office. No longer a momentous event, the appointment of a woman to the high court has become, Ginsburg said, "expectable."
"I don't think anybody's going to confuse Justice Kagan, Justice Ginsburg or Justice Sotomayor," she said.