Justice Clarence Thomas administered Amy Coney Barrett‘s official constitutional oath on Monday evening, formally swearing the conservative judge onto the court, effectively giving the court a 6-3 conservative majority.
“This is a momentous day for America, for the United States Constitution, and for the fair and impartial rule of law,” President Donald Trump said to the socially distanced crowd on the South Lawn of the White House, ahead of the oath. “She is one of our nation’s most brilliant legal scholars and she will make an outstanding justice on the highest court in our land.”
The few hundred attendees of the swearing-in ceremony were required to wear masks and social distance, a change from the initial Rose Garden ceremony where Trump announced his Supreme Court nomination. The event has been billed as a “superspreader” of COVID-19, during which most guests did not wear masks (following negative rapid test results that are often inaccurate) and nearly a dozen attendees later tested positive for the virus.
Coney Barrett, who was confirmed 52-48 on Monday in a controversial process ending nearly a week before Election Day, promised to do her job “independently of both the political branches and of my own preferences.”
“It is the job of a senator to pursue her policy preferences,” she said after the oath. “In fact, it would be a dereliction of duty for her to put policy goals aside. By contrast, it is the job of a judge to resist her policy preferences. It would be a dereliction of duty for her to give into them.”
She continued: “The oath that I have solemnly taken tonight means at its core that I will do my job without any fear or favor, and that I will do so independently of both the political branches and of my own preferences.”
Barrett, 48, served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and as a clerk to the late Justice Antonin Scalia. She is expected to begin deciding high-profile cases almost immediately, with the court hearing oral arguments on the fate of the Obama-era Affordable Care Act on Nov. 10.