Hot SheetSupreme Court

3 ‘junior justice’ duties Gorsuch can ditch, thanks to Kavanaugh

Author: Erin Prater - October 10, 2018 - Updated: October 10, 2018

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, center, serves macaroni and cheese to the homeless as he volunteers with Catholic Charities on July 11 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Not everyone was happy to see newly minted U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh appear Tuesday for the first time with the court. But we’re guessing Justice Neil Gorsuch was.

Here’s why: There are three duties assigned to the court’s junior justice, who is tasked with such mundane chores until a new justice is appointed.

For Justice Elena Kagan, it was a long six years. For Justice Steve Breyer, more than double that — 13.

For Gorsuch, the silver-haired Coloradan, it’s been a mere 18 months since he was appointed to the nation’s highest court and saddled with the trio of tasks fit for an intern.

As of Tuesday, he was a free man.

Just what duties was he able to shake off?


1. Cafeteria duty

“I think this is a way to kind of humble people,” Kagan told Gorsuch at an event at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs when he was on President Donald Trump’s short list for the vacancy he would fill, according to The Washington Post.

“You think you’re kind of hot stuff. You’re an important person. You’ve just been confirmed to the United States Supreme Court. And now you are going to monthly cafeteria committee meetings where literally the agenda is what happened to the good recipe for the chocolate chip cookies.”

There are worse jobs, right?

“Somebody will say, ‘Who’s our representative to the cafeteria committee again?’ Like they don’t know, right?” she added. “And then they’ll say, ‘This soup is very salty.’ And I’m like supposed to go fix it myself?”

OK — perhaps not many.


2. Note-taking and tongue-holding

Reported by the Washington Post in April 2017: “The junior justice’s other responsibilities involve the private conference, when the justices meet alone – no clerks, no assistants – to decide which cases they will take and vote on the cases in which they’ve heard oral arguments.

“It’s another event at which seniority rules. The chief justice speaks first, and then each justice speaks in order of longevity on the court. The junior justice speaks last and takes notes of the proceeding.”


3. Door-opening

Said Kagan to Gorsuch, according to The Post: “Literally, if I’m like in the middle of a sentence – let’s say it’s my turn to speak or something – and there’s a knock on the door, everybody will just stare at me, waiting for me to open the door.

“It’s like a form of hazing. So, that’s what I do, I open the door. Pronto.”

After an incredibly contentious nomination fight, some had suggested there were “no winners” in Kavanaugh’s saga.

Maybe there is one.

Erin Prater

Erin Prater

Erin Prater is Colorado Politics' digital editor. She is a multimedia journalist with 15 years of experience writing, editing and designing for newspapers, magazines, websites and publishing houses. Her previous positions include military reporter at The Gazette, general assignment reporter at The Huerfano County (Colo.) World, copy editor at David C. Cook publishing house and adjunct mass communication instructor at Pueblo Community College. Her bylines include The New York Times Upfront, The Argus Leader (Sioux Falls, S.D.), Military Spouse magazine and Omaha Magazine (Omaha, Neb.). Her syndicated bylines include The Denver Post,, and wire services.