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As newest SCOTUS justice, Neil Gorsuch has a few very unique roles and responsibilities to carry out

Law
New Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch will have a few very unique duties on the high court as the most-junior justice. (Eric Thayer/Getty Images)

Neil Gorsuch, who officially became Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch Monday, is learning that life as the junior justice on the U.S. Supreme Court comes with some unique responsibilities.

Prior to serving on the Supreme Court, Gorsuch served as an appellate court justice with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals for a decade. His job now will involve much of the same duties: listening to oral arguments, writing legal opinions, weighing on the legality of criminal and civil laws, among other things that a justice typically does. Only now, Gorsuch is a member of a nine person team whose decisions are literally the law of the land.

But aside from his constitutional duties as a justice, Gorsuch, being that he's now the high court's most junior member, will have a few extra duties on his plate.

According to Supreme Court Justice Elana Kagen, who was nominated by former President Barack Obama and the last justice to be confirmed prior to Gorsuch, the newest justice on the court has special responsibilities in service to the court, including: kitchen duty, door duty and note-taking duty.

During a September event in Colorado, Gorsuch and 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Justice Timothy Tymkovich were interviewing Kagen when they inquired what its like to be the Supreme Court's junior justice.

Kagen explained that the least-senior member of the court has kitchen committee duty, meaning they're in charge of the justices' kitchen and what's on the menu when they meet together. Kagen said its a way to humble the newest justice.

"I think this is a way to kind of humble people," she said, 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," she explained.

On the day court is in session and the justices have to listen to oral arguments, Kagen said the justices eat together.

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

Heading the kitchen committee, however, is just one of the duties new justices have.

When the jurists meet in private, such as when deciding which cases to hear and discussing oral arguments, Kagen said it's also the junior justice's job to take notes.

The third unique task, which Kagen said was the "most important junior justice responsibility," is to open the door to the inner meeting room where the justices gather in private.

"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," Kagen explained.

The junior justice is also in the position of always going last, Kagen said. That's because the Supreme Court runs on seniority. So when giving opinions in private or discussing a case, Kagen said the chief justice is first to speak and then each justice speaks in the order of their seniority, meaning for the foreseeable future, Gorsuch will be last at everything.

Kagen said the responsibilities are "like a form of hazing," but all in jest as a way to appreciate the great job justices have.

It's unclear how long Gorsuch will be on kitchen and note-taking duty. Kagen did it for more than six years, and before that, Justice Sonia Sotomayor had it for only 364 days.

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