By Claire Zillman
April 11, 2017

The confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court will be remembered for shattering political norms. To ensure his nomination would be approved, Senate Republicans voted for a rule change that essentially removed the need for bipartisan compromise over any future nominee. Yet amid the bitter cross-aisle bickering, a lighthearted moment emerged: Justice Elena Kagan explained to Gorsuch what it’s like to be the most junior member of the highest court, where seniority is prized above all. Kagan was the last jurist to join the bench in 2010.

The most unique duty of the rookie justice is perhaps the least glamorous, Kagan explained. He or she is required to serve on the “cafeteria committee,” the body that decides what’s on the menu when justices dine together on oral argument days.

“I think this is a way to kind of humble people,” said Kagan, who’s sat on the committee for six years. “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.”

Their exchange actually occurred at the end of last summer when Kagan spoke with Gorsuch at an event in Colorado. The Washington Post wrote about it on Sunday,

Other responsibilities include answering the door to the justices’ conference room and speaking last when they vote on case outcomes and decide which ones to take.

But cafeteria committee duty is by far the most colorful task and one Kagan finally will give up now that Gorsuch has joined the bench. She’ll leave quite the legacy. Under her watch, the cafeteria installed a frozen yogurt machine.

—@clairezillman

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