Gorsuch's New Role As Most Junior Justice Comes With Some Humbling Tasks

Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch is sworn in on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, March 20, 2017, during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Neil Gorsuch became the 101st United States Supreme Court justice on Monday morning. His swearing in means that he take Justice Elaina Kagan’s spot as the most junior justice on the court. While becoming a Supreme Court justice may seem like the pinnacle moment in the career of any judge, Neil Gorsuch will take on some rather amusing tasks for someone in such a lofty role.


According to the Washington Post, Justice Kagan explained the humbling tasks of the most junior justice while being interviewed in Colorado last year by none other than Neil Gorsuch and the chief judge of the 10th circuit court of appeals, Timothy M. Tymkovich.

So, what can Gorsuch expect? A sparkling new membership card to the cafeteria committee!

“I’ve been on the cafeteria committee for six years. (Justice) Steve Breyer was on the cafeteria committee for 13 years,” Kagan said at a Colorado event where she was being interviewed by Gorsuch and Timothy M. Tymkovich, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

Gorsuch and Tymkovich both were on President Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court nominees at the time, and it just so happened that they asked what it was like to be the most junior justice.

“I think this is a way to kind of humble people,” she said during the “fireside chat” at the elegant Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs. “You think you’re kind of hot stuff. You’re an important person. You’ve just been confirmed to the United States Supreme Court.

“And now you are going to monthly cafeteria committee meetings where literally the agenda is what happened to the good recipe for the chocolate chip cookies.”

The justices eat lunch together on the days when they hear oral arguments, Kagan explained.

“Somebody will say, ‘Who’s our representative to the cafeteria committee again?’ Like they don’t know, right? And then they’ll say, ‘This soup is very salty.’ And I’m like supposed to go fix it myself?”


Kagan also explained that Gorsuch will have two other responsibilities as the most junior justice.

He will be the last justice to speak during private conference — meetings where only the justices convene to decide which cases they will hear — and is responsible for taking notes and recording decisions.

Lastly, Kagan told Gorsuch and the assembled audience that there will be a lot of door opening in his future:

“The third thing–this is the most important junior justice responsibility–I open the door,” she said.

The conference room is a “real inner sanctum. We have two doors,” she said. Why would someone knock? “Well, you know, one of the justices forgot his glasses. The other justice forgot her cup of coffee.”

Kagan said there are no exceptions to the rule of who answers the door.

“Literally, if I’m like in the middle of a sentence–let’s say it’s my turn to speak or something–and there’s a knock on the door, everybody will just stare at me, waiting for me to open the door,” Kagan said. “It’s like a form of hazing. So, that’s what I do, I open the door. Pronto.”

With the prognostications over who is expected to likely vacate the court over the next several years, Gorsuch has an unknowable tenure of performing the tasks until such a time as a new justice arrives. Justice Kagan must surely be glad to finally pass the torch and stop worrying about the cookies and soup.



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