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Sotomayor officially takes her place on Supreme Court

Will participate in her first hearing today

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was joined by her stepfather, Omar Lopez, and her mother, Celina Sotomayor, outside the Supreme Court in Washington yesterday. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was joined by her stepfather, Omar Lopez, and her mother, Celina Sotomayor, outside the Supreme Court in Washington yesterday. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)
By Robert Barnes
Washington Post / September 9, 2009

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WASHINGTON - Justice Sonia Sotomayor officially took her seat as the Supreme Court’s 111th member yesterday in a tradition-laden ceremony witnessed by President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and scores of her relatives and friends.

Sotomayor took her judicial oath and joined the court on Aug. 8, soon after her Senate confirmation. But yesterday’s investiture ceremony marked the first time she joined her eight colleagues in the court’s historic chambers, with their marble columns and burgundy draperies.

Among the onlookers in the courtroom were her mother, Celina, her brother Juan, the entertainer Ricky Martin, retired Justice David Souter (whom she replaced), members of Congress, federal judges, and former top Justice Department officials.

Sotomayor, 55, sat in the black leather chair once occupied by Chief Justice John Marshall, the leader who established the court’s authority as the final say on constitutional matters. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. administered the judicial oath, as he had when she was sworn in last month so that she could start work.

Sotomayor and Roberts then shed their black robes - and Sotomayor also the white, starched judicial collar that was a gift from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg - and took the traditional walk down the court’s white marble steps. Roberts left her alone for a moment in the spotlight as photographers clicked away. The court’s first Latina and third woman will participate in her first hearing today, when justices hear arguments in a key case about the constitutionality of federal and state laws that restrict the role of corporations in election campaigns.

After spending much of her Senate confirmation hearings pledging respect for the court’s precedents, she will help decide - in her first Supreme Court case - whether two of the court’s prior decisions on the subject should be overruled.