Justice Thomas Cromwell, seen in an undated photo published in a Court of Nova Scotia book, has been sworn in to the Supreme Court of Canada. (Courts of Nova Scotia/Canadian Press)

The Supreme Court of Canada welcomed a new member Monday after Thomas Cromwell was officially sworn in during a private ceremony in Ottawa.

A former Nova Scotia Court of Appeal judge, Cromwell replaces Michel Bastarache, who announced his plan to retire last spring.

A public welcoming ceremony will be held on Feb. 16 for Cromwell, who has been described as a legal centrist.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper confirmed Cromwell's appointment to the court on Dec. 22, bypassing a parliamentary hearing process he championed in order to more publicly scrutinize nominees. Cromwelll had been nominated in early September.

The prime minister said he decided to skip the public hearings because of time constraints. Harper consulted with Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff before confirming Cromwell.

"The Supreme Court must have its full complement of nine judges in order to execute its vital constitutional mandate effectively," Harper said in a statement issued when he made the appointment.

"Not only is Justice Cromwell one of Canada's most respected jurists, his appointment will also restore regional balance to the Court which now, once again, has an Atlantic Canadian representative."

Cromwell, 56, from Kingston, Ont., got his law degree in Ontario in 1976 after first studying music. He practised and taught law in  Halifax. He was the executive legal officer in the chambers of the Supreme Court's chief justice for three years.

He first became a Nova Scotia appeals judge in 1997.

With Cromwell's addition, the Supreme Court now has a full slate of nine judges, including Louise Charron, Morris J. Fish, Rosalie Abella, Marshall Rothstein, Louis LeBel, William Ian Binnie, Marie Deschamps and Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin.

With files from the Canadian Press