POLITICS
06/01/2017 12:52 pm ET Updated Jun 01, 2017

The Supreme Court Posed For Its First 'Class' Photo Since Justice Scalia's Death

It's also the first time the court's newest member, Neil Gorsuch, posed for formal shots with his colleagues.

For the first time since 2010, all nine justices on the U.S. Supreme Court posed for their traditional group photograph, which also featured the court’s junior member, Neil Gorsuch, appointed by President Donald Trump.

During the occasion on Thursday, the Supreme Court’s official photographer and members of the media had about two minutes to photograph and film the justices — one of the rare instances news cameras are allowed on court premises.

Chief Justice John Roberts, who leads the Supreme Court, sat dead center, and then his associate justices sat or stood on either side of him in order of seniority — the most-senior justice to his right, then the second most-senior justice to his left, and so on.

Time photographer Christopher Morris, one of the 11 photographers who was at the court for the Thursday session, told the magazine there was an air of levity in the room and that the justices seemed to be in a good mood. Except, that is, for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

“Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the only one who shows the gravity of who they are and what they represent,” Morris said.

Members of the Supreme Court take a new "family" photo on June 1, 2017. Front row, from left: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Ju
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
Members of the Supreme Court take a new "family" photo on June 1, 2017. Front row, from left: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Anthony Kennedy, Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Stephen Breyer. Back row, from left: Justice Elena Kagan, Justice Samuel Alito, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and Justice Neil Gorsuch. 

The justices only sit for formal photographs when a new member arrives at the court. Longtime court observers refer to the session as the court’s “class” or “family” photo.

The last time the justices gathered for a similar moment was seven years ago, when President Barack Obama appointed Justice Elena Kagan, whom he chose after appointing Justice Sonia Sotomayor a year earlier. Merrick Garland, Obama’s third high court nominee and choice to fill the seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, never got a hearing from the Republican-controlled Senate.

Gorsuch joined the court in April, following a bitter confirmation battle that found the Senate holding the Scalia seat open for more than 400 days and nuking its own rules to break a Democratic blockade of Trump’s nominee.

One day after Gorsuch’s swearing-in, Roberts said during a public appearance in New York that the political fight over this latest vacancy may give the public the wrong perception that the new justice is a partisan ideologue.

“The new justice is not a Republican and not a Democrat,” Roberts said. “He is a member of the Supreme Court. But it’s hard for people to understand when they see the process that leads up to it.”

The Supreme Court is now in the home stretch of its current term, which ends in late June and is expected to yield important decisions on immigration, civil rights and religious freedom.

This story has been updated with comment from Time photographer Christopher Morris.

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