Sotomayor sworn in as U.S. Supreme Court justice

Sonia Sotomayor was sworn in Saturday as the first Hispanic justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Sonia Sotomayor, left, reaches out to Chief Justice John Roberts after taking the oath to become the U.S. Supreme Court's first Hispanic member. She is joined by her brother, Juan Luis Sotomayor, and her mother, Celina Sotomayor, centre. ((J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press))
Sonia Sotomayor was sworn in Saturday as the first Hispanic justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

She took the judicial oath twice from Chief Justice John Roberts, first in a private ceremony open only to members of her family, then again with television cameras recording the event for the first time in the court's history.

Sotomayor, 55, won a Senate confirmation vote on Thursday amid intense conservative opposition. The tally was 68-31 in her favour, with unanimous Democratic support. Most Republican senators voted against her, but nine joined their Democratic colleagues.

Republican senators said their opposition was based on Sotomayor's speeches and record. The pointed to a few rulings in which they argued she showed disregard for gun rights, property rights and job discrimination claims by white employees. They also cited comments she had made about the role a judge's background and perspective can play, especially a 2001 speech in which she said she hoped a "wise Latina" would usually make better decisions than a white man.

As U.S. President Barack Obama's first Supreme Court nominee, Sotomayor replaces retiring Justice David Souter, considered a liberal, meaning her appointment is not expected to change the high court's ideological split. She will also become the third woman ever on the court.

Sotomayor, who was born in the New York City borough of the Bronx, has been a federal judge for 17 years and will be the second-youngest high court justice, less than half a year older than Roberts.

Her appointment means she will have to move to Washington from New York, where she has lived all her life.

With files from The Associated Press