Neil Gorsuch sworn in, restoring U.S. Supreme Court's conservative tilt

Surrounded by family and his future colleagues, Neil Gorsuch has been sworn in as the 113th justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Gorsuch promised to be a 'faithful servant of the Constitution and laws of this great nation'

U.S. President Donald Trump watched as Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy administered the judicial oath to Justice Neil Gorsuch in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on Monday. Holding the Bible is Gorsuch's wife Marie Louise Gorsuch. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

U.S. President Donald Trump is praising new Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch during a public White House ceremony. He says Gorsuch will rule "not on his personal preferences but based on a fair and objective reading of the law."

In a Rose Garden ceremony, Trump said in Gorsuch, Americans see "a man who is deeply faithful to the Constitution of the United States." The president is predicting Gorsuch will go down as "one of the truly great justices" in the court's history.

The 49-year-old appeals court judge from Colorado was sworn in during the ceremony by Justice Anthony Kennedy, for whom he once served as a law clerk.

Gorsuch said he was humbled by his ascendance to the nation's high court and thanked his former law clerks, saying, "your names are etched in my heart forever."

Gorsuch promised to be a "faithful servant of the constitution and laws of this great nation."

The president noted that the successful nomination came during his first 100 days in office.

An earlier ceremony took place privately in the Justices' Conference Room, with Chief Justice John Roberts administering the oath required by the Constitution.

Gorsuch's wife, Marie Louise, held the family Bible and all eight of the current justices were present, said court spokesperson Kathy Arberg. Also in attendance was Maureen Scalia, widow of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, along with her eldest son Eugene.

Similar to Scalia in his approach to the law

Gorsuch replaces Scalia, who was part of the court's conservative wing for nearly three decades before he died unexpectedly in February 2016. In nominating Gorsuch, President Donald Trump said he fulfilled a campaign pledge to pick someone in the mould of Scalia.

Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts looks on as Gorsuch signs the constitutional oath during a swearing-in ceremony at the Supreme Court in Washington on Monday. (Supreme Court of the United States/Reuters)

During 11 years on the federal Appeals Court in Denver, Gorsuch mirrored Scalia's originalist approach to the law, interpreting the Constitution according to the meaning understood by those who drafted it. Like Scalia, he is a gifted writer with a flair for turning legal jargon into plain language people can understand.

Gorsuch will be seated just in time to hear one of the biggest cases of the term: a religious rights dispute over a Missouri law that bars churches from receiving public funds for general aid programs.

His 66-day confirmation process was swift, but bitterly divisive. It saw Senate Republicans trigger the "nuclear option" to eliminate the 60-vote filibuster threshold for all future high court nominees. The change allowed the Senate to hold a final vote with a simple majority.

Most Democrats refused to support Gorsuch because they were still seething over the Republican blockade last year of President Barack Obama's pick for the same seat, Merrick Garland. Senate Republicans refused to even hold a hearing for Garland, saying a high court replacement should be up to the next president.

The White House swearing-in ceremony is a departure from recent history. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were both sworn in publicly at the Supreme Court. Former Justice John Paul Stevens has argued that holding the public ceremony at the court helps drive home the justice's independence from the White House.

Some interesting facts about Gorsuch and the court:

  • He is the youngest nominee since Clarence Thomas, who was 43 when confirmed in 1991.
  • The Colorado native went to high school in Washington while his mother served as an Environmental Protection Agency administrator in the Reagan administration.
  • He's the sixth member of the court to have attended Harvard Law School; the other three earned their law degrees from Yale.
  • Gorsuch credits a nun with teaching him how to write. He and his family attend an Episcopal church in Boulder, though he was raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools as a child. He joins a court that has five Catholics and three Jews.
  • As an associate justice, Gorsuch will earn $251,800 US a year — more than 15 per cent higher than his $217,600 US salary as an appellate judge.
  • Gorsuch joins the ranks of justices who are millionaires. He reported financial assets in 2015 worth at least $3.2 million US, according to his latest financial disclosure report.