WASHINGTON (AP) — A beaming Elena Kagan and President Barack Obama on Friday celebrated her imminent ascension to the U.S. Supreme Court with jokes and references to the irreverent sense of humor she put on display during her Senate confirmation hearing.
An audience at the White House, filled with Kagan’s friends and extended family, along with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anthony Kennedy, shouted with joy and applauded as Obama introduced “Justice Elena Kagan.”
Kagan, 50, holds the title of U.S. solicitor general or the government’s top lawyer for one more day.
“While she may be feeling a twinge of sadness about giving up the title of general — a cool title — I think we can agree that Justice Elena Kagan has a pretty nice ring to it,” Obama said of his second successful appointment to the court.
The Senate on Thursday confirmed Kagan as the high court’s 112th justice. She will be the fourth woman ever to serve there.
WATCH MSNBC COVERAGE OF KAGAN’S CONFIRMATION:
[MSNBCMSN video=”http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640″ w=”592″ h=”346″ launch_id=”38596480″ id=”msnbc5ca308″]
Kagan will be sworn in Saturday at the Supreme Court as the successor to retired Justice John Paul Stevens.
She is not expected to alter the ideological balance of the court, where Stevens was considered a leader of the liberals confronting a usually conservative-leaning court that rules of some of the most divisive issues in American life.
She is the first Supreme Court nominee in nearly 40 years with no experience as a judge, and her swearing-in will mark the first time in history that three women will serve together on the nine-member court, where justices often serve for life.
Obama said senators got a “pretty good look” during the confirmation process at Kagan, who met individually with more than 80 senators and testified for a total of 17 hours.
“They got a good sense of her judicial philosophy, her commitment to the rule of law, her rich understanding of our Constitution and, of course, where she can be found on Christmas Day,” Obama said, alluding to one of her jokes.
Kagan showed glimpses of her dry sense of humor during the hearings last month, disarming Republicans and Democrats alike with clever comebacks that lightened the often tense proceedings.
When Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham stumped her by asking where she was on Christmas Day — part of a series of questions on the Nigerian man accused of trying to use a bomb hidden in his underwear to bring down a Detroit-bound airliner Dec. 25 — Kagan recovered quickly.
“You know, like all Jews,” she quipped, “I was probably at a Chinese restaurant.”
Speaking at the White House on Friday, Kagan mostly took a more serious tone.
She thanked Obama for trusting her enough to nominate her to the Supreme Court and pledged to fulfill an “obligation to uphold the rights and liberties afforded by our remarkable Constitution” and “to provide what the inscription on the Supreme Court building promises: equal justice under law.”
Chief Justice John Roberts will swear in Kagan twice on Saturday. She will recite one oath as prescribed by the Constitution during a private ceremony in a conference room at the court with only her family present. Roberts will then administer a second oath, taken by judges, with Kagan’s family and friends and reporters present.
Kagan will not be formally installed as a justice until Oct. 1 in a courtroom ceremony at the start of the court’s new term.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.