Protesters demonstrated in front of the Supreme Court, where Justice Brett Kavanaugh took his seat for the first time
Washington (AFP) - New US Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh dove into his new job Tuesday, shrugging off the controversy over his nomination and firing off a handful of questions at his first hearing, a case on prison reform.
A handful of protesters rallied outside the court in opposition to the conservative justice, who was confirmed on Saturday by the Senate by a razor-thin margin after weeks of partisan rancor.
“We will not forget!” the group shouted – a reference to the accusations of sexual assault that threatened to derail Kavanaugh’s nomination, allegations that the 53-year-old strongly denied.
The small group quickly broke up. Shortly afterwards, the US high court came to order with the traditional call of “Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye.”
In front of a packed courtroom, Chief Justice John Roberts welcomed the newest judge on the nine-member panel and wished him a “long and happy career.”
The justices then heard arguments in a series of cases about prison terms for repeat offenders and what constitutes a “violent felony” that would open up recidivists to more serious sentences.
Kavanaugh jumped in, asking a series of questions during the proceedings.
His arrival on the court tips the bench decidedly to the right – with five conservative and four liberal justices.
Kavanaugh promised to be a “impartial” judge and a “team player” during his ceremonial swearing-in at the White House late Monday.
“The Supreme Court is an institution of law. It is not a partisan or political institution,” he said.
Kavanaugh’s nomination was thrown into jeopardy when university research psychologist Christine Blasey Ford came forward with accusations that he had sexually assaulted her when they were teens in the Washington area.
Both Kavanaugh and Blasey Ford spoke before the Senate Judiciary Committee in an extraordinary day of raw testimony.
Ultimately, Kavanaugh was confirmed by a vote of 50-48.
The two-vote margin of victory in the Senate made it the closest Supreme Court confirmation vote since 1881 – and by far the most contentious since Clarence Thomas in 1991.
Only one Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, voted for Trump’s nominee.