U.S. Supreme Court

Sotomayor Now Court's Junior Justice--and ‘Doorkeeper and Secretary’

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Sonia Sotomayor is now the second youngest justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, less than six months older than the man who swore her in on Saturday, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

She is also the third New Yorker currently on the court; the others are Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia, the Associated Press reports. She is the first Hispanic and the third woman to be appointed to the court.

Sotomayor took the oath on Saturday in two separate ceremonies, one required for all federal officers and the other for a new justice. Television cameras recorded the event in a Supreme Court conference room—the first time TV cameras were allowed at the court, the Los Angeles Times reports. Sotomayor’s mother, Celina Sotomayor, held the Bible for the oath, according to the Washington Post.

Now, as the court’s junior justice, Sotomayor will serve as “doorkeeper and secretary” for the justices’ private conferences, USA Today reports. Her responsibilities include taking notes on what happens at the conferences and reporting the results to the court clerk. “It’s not rocket science, but it is vital to the court,” according to AP.

She will also be the last to go when the justices cast their initial votes on cases, AP notes. Ginsburg once recalled that “coming last does have its heady moments, times when the ninth vote breaks a tie.”

Justice Stephen G. Breyer recalled in a 2005 appearance at the National Archives one of his duties as a junior justice—carrying coffee to colleagues, the USA Today story says. One time, Breyer was carrying coffee to Scalia, and said, “I’ve been doing this for 10 years. I’ve gotten pretty good at it, haven’t I?”

Scalia had a quick answer, according to Breyer. “No, you haven’t,” Scalia said.

In a 2006 interview, Breyer had another take on his early years as a justice, the New York Times reports. “I was frightened to death for the first three years,” he said.

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