Gorsuch joined the court Monday as the ninth justice
He will head up the court's cafeteria committee and open doors when the nine justices are meeting in private
Neil Gorsuch has made it all the way to the hallowed hallways of the Supreme Court.
Gorsuch took his official oath to become the ninth justice in a short ceremony Monday morning, before a public ceremony later at the White House.
Now, after a lifetime of preparation and several grueling weeks as a nominee, he starts his tenure as the junior-most justice. The new guy. The rookie.
Sure, his vote on a dream docket of constitutional and statutory cases will be equal to any other justice. They all wear the same black robes, after all.
But someone has to open the doors and lead the cafeteria committee.
With no time to catch his breath after meeting with more than 80 senators, enduring 20-plus hours of testimony and watching the Senate go nuclear over his nomination, he’ll have to learn quickly. And even though he served as a clerk at the highest court in the early 1990s, he’ll still have to adjust to the peculiar place that is the Supreme Court. It’s steeped in tradition and seniority weighs heavily.
The junior-most justice starts off at the bottom of the heap, sits on a far wing of the bench and speaks last at conference.
Indeed, the conference – the regular closed-door meeting where the justices discuss cases – has an unusual tradition.
Only justices are allowed to attend. No clerks, no assistants, just the nine.
And the junior-most justice is assigned the task of answering the door. Seriously.
It’s a job that Justice Elena Kagan, confirmed to the bench in 2010, is likely relieved to relinquish.
She lightheartedly described the job qualifications at a Princeton appearance in 2014.
“The junior justice has to answer the door,” she began.
“I mean literally, if there is a knock on the door, and I don’t hear it – there will not be a single other person who will move, they will just all stare at me until I figure out ‘oh, I guess somebody knocked on the door.’”
Why might people knock on the door? “It’s like ‘knock knock, Justice X forgot his glasses’ … ‘knock knock, Justice Y forgot her coffee.’”
“So there I am popping up and down. I think that is a form of hazing, don’t you?” she said to laughter.
What’s for lunch?
Besides conference duties, the junior justice is also traditionally assigned to the cafeteria committee.
The court is a close-knit place, and staff and a number of the justices divide up into committees dedicated to the functioning of the institution.