WASHINGTON (AP) - Justice John Paul Stevens said Thursday Supreme Court justicesshouldn't take their judicial oaths at the White House, calling it"inappropriate symbolism" for an independent branch ofgovernment.
Justices take two oaths before assuming the bench. Stevens, at88 the oldest sitting justice, took both of his in 1975 at theSupreme Court building, with President Gerald Ford in attendance.Now-retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor did the same in 1981, withPresident Ronald Reagan coming down to the Supreme Court to watchher take her oath.
But most of the justices since then have had at least one oftheir oaths administered at the White House, usually with thepresident in attendance, something that bothers Stevens.
Justices, once they are appointed by the president and confirmedby the Senate, are supposed to independent of politics and the manwho suggested them for the court, Stevens said. After justices areappointed, they're "on their own," Stevens said.
The court is a co-equal branch of government, but justices goingto the White House to take their oath with the president instead ofthe president coming to see them take their oath in their ownbuilding? "I was troubled by that as incorrect symbolism," Stevenssaid.
That is why Stevens has refused to attend White Houseswearings-in of justices and will refuse to attend any futureswearings-in of justices at the White House.
"I feel strongly about it," said Stevens, who said he hoped thatfuture justices go back to taking both oaths at the Supreme Courtinstead of having one done at the White House.
Stevens made the comment while moderating a panel at the Newseumon Marbury v. Madison, the 1803 Supreme Court decision thatcemented the justices' role as the interpreter of and highestauthority on the Constitution.
There is no indication that any of the current justices plan toretire anytime soon. President Barack Obama would nominate a newjustice to fill any vacancy.
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