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Heightened Security As Brett Kavanaugh Formally Takes Supreme Court Seat

Brett Kavanaugh, pictured after he was sworn in at the White House last month, formally took his seat as the 114th justice during the traditional investiture ceremony at the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday morning.MoreCloseclosemore
Brett Kavanaugh, pictured after he was sworn in at the White House last month, formally took his seat as the 114th justice during the traditional investiture ceremony at the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday morning.

Updated at 1 p.m. ET

Brett Kavanaugh formally took his seat as the 114th justice at the traditional investiture ceremony at the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday morning. There was, however, a difference in the way the event was handled. The court said that because of security concerns, Kavanaugh would not walk down the court's long outside staircase with the chief justice.

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump attended the ceremony. Prior to Trump's arrival, the atmosphere in the ceremonial courtroom was much like a cocktail party, with old friends from the George W. Bush administration, in which Kavanaugh served, greeting each other.

Among the former Bush White House staffers was Harriet Miers, who was herself briefly nominated to the Supreme Court in 2005, though she withdrew after the nomination ran into trouble.

As the din in the courtroom grew louder and louder, at one point a Supreme Court policeman all but shouted to get the crowd's attention, telling them "please sit down. There is a reception afterward. That's the appropriate place ..." The rest was drowned out. But the happy crowd soon began taking their seats.

Among those in the courtroom was Judge Merrick Garland, who was nominated to the court by Barack Obama when Justice Antonin Scalia died, and the man who blocked Garland's nomination for almost a year, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. Sen. McConnell had argued that seat should be filled by the next president, not the outgoing one.

Garland, who is chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., sat with other judges from his court and stared straight ahead during the hubbub. McConnell smiled and chatted away with friends and associates.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose retirement created the vacancy for Kavanaugh's nomination, was there, too, sitting next to Melania Trump.

At 10:01 a.m. ET, Kavanaugh entered the room, wearing his judicial robe and accompanied by his wife, Ashley. His daughter Liza, wearing pink shoes, smiled at him as he went to a chair in the well of the courtroom, the very same mahogany chair used by Chief Justice John Marshall from 1819 to 1835.

Three minutes later, the president entered. Then justices emerged from behind the red curtain, and court marshal Pamela Talkin announced the opening of the session with the traditional "oyez, oyez."

In the wake of the firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday, acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, a hulking former football player, moved to have Kavanaugh's commission read. Kavanaugh, leaving the Marshall chair behind, stepped up to the bench, where the chief justice administered the judicial oath. After shaking hands with each of his colleagues, Kavanaugh then took his seat at the far end of the bench, the traditional place for the junior justice.

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump pose with Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh (fourth from right) and his wife, Ashley Kavanaugh, as well as other members of the Supreme Court in the justices' conference room before the investiture ceremony. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was absent. (Fred Schilling, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States)

The president watched it all, but his eyes often wandered around the room, and his motorcade was off and running by 10:16.

Kavanaugh was confirmed Oct. 6 by a 50-48 vote, the closest vote for a Supreme Court nominee since the 1800s. His dramatic confirmation process drew protest after he was accused of sexual misconduct while he was in high school and college more than 30 years ago — charges he fiercely denied.

After the confirmation vote, Kavanaugh was immediately sworn in and has been on the bench hearing arguments and voting since Oct. 9.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was absent from Thursday's ceremony. She was hospitalized after falling in her office Wednesday night.

Copyright NPR 2018.

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