Brett Kavanaugh took his seat on the U.S. Supreme Court for the first time Tuesday and asked a handful of questions about two cases involving a law that requires enhanced sentences for repeat offenders, creating the appearance of a routine day at the court even as protesters massed outside to complain about his appointment.
Protesters gathered outside Tuesday morning, including many women dressed in red robes, a nod to the show “The Handmaid’s Tale,” to oppose Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault by three women during his confirmation.
“This isn’t over, we’re still here,” they chanted.
[Related: It’s not over: Democrats vow to investigate Kavanaugh]
Inside, Kavanaugh was able to ask questions without interruption as the court mulled the case, which led to a discussion about Congress's role on the issue and even some joking between some of the justices.
As the court convened at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Chief Justice John Roberts said it was his pleasure to welcome Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. “We wish you a long and happy career in our common calling,” Roberts said.
In attendance to observe Kavanaugh’s debut on the high court were his wife, Ashley, two daughters, Liza and Margaret, and his parents. Retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose seat Kavanaugh took on the court, was also in the audience.
Kavanaugh’s first day on the court started with the admittance of the newest members of the Supreme Court bar, during which Kavanaugh watched and at times chatted and laughed with Justice Elena Kagan, who is seated directly next to him at the right end of the bench.
As the day turned to arguments in the first case, Kavanaugh listened intently to presentations from the lawyers before him and often turned to look down the bench as his new colleagues posed questions of their own.
The arguments offered several moments of comic relief, as Roberts first described an experiment he conducted with his law clerks in which they tried to pry a dollar bill from his hand to demonstrate the degree of force needed to do so.
In another instance, Justice Sonia Sotomayor reached over to pinch Justice Neil Gorsuch in an effort to demonstrate what an “ordinary pinch” may look like, surprising Gorsuch and drawing laughs from the audience.
Kavanaugh posed his first questions roughly 20 minutes into the arguments, citing the Supreme Court’s opinion in the 2010 case Johnson v. United States and pressing lawyers for both sides who presented their arguments before the court.
The return to business as usual at the court came after several weeks of bitter debate over Kavanaugh, which came to a close Saturday with the Senate’s 50-48 vote to confirm his nomination, making him the 114th Supreme Court justice.
On Monday, President Trump hosted a ceremonial swearing-in for the justice, during which the president did not shy away from fanning the political flames that have cast a shadow on the Supreme Court.
“Those who step forward to serve our country deserve a fair and dignified evaluation, not a campaign of political and personal destruction based on lies and deception,” Trump said. “What happened to the Kavanaugh family violates every notion of fairness, decency and due process. In our country, a man or a woman must always be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. And with that, I must state that you, sir, under historic scrutiny were proven innocent.”