WASHINGTON -- Sonia Sotomayor became the Supreme Court's newest justice Saturday, pledging during a brief ceremony at the high court to defend the Constitution and administer impartial justice.
Sotomayor, 55, is the first Hispanic justice and only the third woman in the court's 220-year history.
She took the second of two oaths of office from Chief Justice John Roberts in an ornate conference room, beneath a portrait of the legendary Chief Justice John Marshall. Her left hand resting on a Bible that was held by her mother, Celina, Sotomayor pledged to "do equal right to the poor and to the rich."
Minutes earlier, she swore a first oath in a private ceremony in the room where the justices hold their private conferences.
Sotomayor wore a cream-colored suit and her right ankle, fractured in a fall a couple of weeks after her nomination to the court, was unbandaged. Her 60 or so guests included Justice Anthony Kennedy, White House counsel Greg Craig and other members of the Obama administration team that helped prepare her for her Senate confirmation hearings, family and friends.
Roberts, wearing his black judicial robe, said that once the oaths were done, Sotomayor could "begin work as associate justice without delay."
President Barack Obama scheduled a White House reception for Sotomayor on Wednesday.
The court is set to hear arguments Sept. 9 in a campaign finance case. The entire court will convene the day before for a formal ceremony to welcome Sotomayor.
Sotomayor has been a federal judge for 17 years. Obama nominated her in May to take the place of Justice David Souter after Souter announced his retirement. The Senate confirmed Sotomayor's nomination Thursday by a 68-31 vote.
The oath that Sotomayor took in private is prescribed by the Constitution and required of all federal officials. The second oath, taken in front of a television audience, is spelled out in the 220-year-old federal law that established the federal court system.
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