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Sotomayor Takes Oath, Seat on Bench

WASHINGTON - As President Obama, her mother and other well-wishers watched her in the white-marble-and-red-velvet courtroom, Sonia Sotomayor on Tuesday swore to "do equal right to the poor and to the rich" as a justice.

Sotomayor, who succeeds the retired Supreme Court justice David Souter, officially took the judicial oath on Aug. 8. Tuesday's investiture was pure ritual: Numerous dignitaries, including Vice President Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder, attended, and the historic chair of former chief justice John Marshall, who served from 1801 to 1835, was brought out for Sotomayor's initial seating.

The event lasted five minutes and was followed by the traditional walk down the marble steps of the columned building.

The ceremony for the nation's first Hispanic justice began when Sotomayor, 55, was escorted to the Marshall chair. She wore a new black robe and a white, lace collar made in Quebec that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the court's only other sitting female justice, had given her.

Chief Justice John Roberts then administered the oath, in which Sotomayor promised to "faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties" of an associate justice. She then took her seat, to Roberts' far left, as dictated by seniority.

Watching from the front row of the spectator chairs was Celina Sotomayor, the justice's mother, who was widowed at a young age and who supported her daughter and son by working two jobs as a nurse. The justice's brother, Juan, attended, as did her stepfather, Omar Lopez.

As she took the oath, her eight robed colleagues stood along their mahogany bench, watching intently. Among other notables at the investiture were Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and pop singer Ricky Martin, who, like the justice, has Puerto Rican heritage.

Afterward, Roberts escorted Sotomayor down the steps of the marble columned building for photographs.

Sotomayor declined to take questions from the news media. Facing the battery of photographers and camera crews, she quipped, "Tell me when you've had enough."

Then, after one more pose with relatives, Sotomayor said to photographers, "Bye, guys."

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