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Sotomayor sworn in as Supreme Court justice

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, left, reaches out to Chief Justice John Roberts after taking the oath in Washington on Saturday. She is joined by her brother, Juan Luis, and her mother, Celina.

Associated Press

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, left, reaches out to Chief Justice John Roberts after taking the oath in Washington on Saturday. She is joined by her brother, Juan Luis, and her mother, Celina.

WASHINGTON — Sonia Sotomayor was sworn in Saturday morning as the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court in a brief ceremony that completed a remarkable ascent for a Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx .

Sotomayor, 55, rested her left hand on a Bible held by her mother and raised her right hand as Chief Justice John Roberts administered a pair of oaths that made her the 111th justice to serve on the nation's highest court. She pledged to "administer justice without respect to persons and do equal right to the poor and to the rich."

The chief justice, who had slightly flubbed the wording of the oath of office when he swore in President Barack Obama in January, held a piece of paper containing the oath for Sotomayor. Occasionally Roberts looked down as he recited the words.

Immediately after she repeated Roberts' words in a firm voice, the new justice, wearing a cream-colored suit and a wide smile, gave a long hug to her mother, Celina Sotomayor, and one to her brother, Juan, who stood at her side.

"Congratulations and welcome to the court," Roberts said.

The two-part ceremony at the court began with a constitutional oath, dating to the 1860s, that Roberts administered privately in the justices' conference room. They then walked to the court's paneled East Conference Room, where Sotomayor then took a judicial oath before about six relatives and friends. The court permitted the second oath to be broadcast on television, marking the first live coverage of such a ceremony in the institution's history.

Sotomayor becomes the third woman ever to serve on the Supreme Court and the first appointee by a Democratic president in 15 years. Obama nominated her to replace David Souter, who announced in early May that he intended to retire after 19 years as a justice.

Sotomayor became a member of the court two days after she was confirmed by the Senate on a 68-31 vote. Every Democratic senator except for Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, who was too ill to be present, voted for her, but fewer than one-fourth of the Republicans did.

Sotomayor was raised by a widowed mother in a housing project. She went on to the Ivy League for college and law school, then worked as a prosecutor and at a private law firm with an international clientele before she became a federal judge at age 38.

Sotomayor sworn in as Supreme Court justice 08/08/09 [Last modified: Saturday, August 8, 2009 10:30pm]

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