WASHINGTON - A beaming Elena Kagan and President Barack Obama on Friday celebrated her imminent move to the Supreme Court with jokes and references to the irreverent sense of humor she put on display during her Senate confirmation hearing.
An audience in the East Room of the White House, filled with Kagan's friends and extended family, along with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anthony Kennedy, screamed with joy and applauded as Obama introduced "Justice Elena Kagan." Kagan, 50, holds the title of U.S. solicitor general for one more day.
"While she may be feeling a twinge of sadness about giving up the title of general - a cool title - I think we can agree that Justice Elena Kagan has a pretty nice ring to it," Obama said of his second successful appointment to the court.
The Senate on Thursday confirmed Kagan, a New Yorker, as the nation's 112th justice. She will be the fourth woman ever to serve on the high court.
Kagan will be sworn in Saturday at the Supreme Court as the successor to retired Justice John Paul Stevens.
Obama said senators got a "pretty good look" during the confirmation process at Kagan, who met individually with more than 80 senators and testified for a total of 17 hours.
"They got a good sense of her judicial philosophy, her commitment to the rule of law, her rich understanding of our Constitution and, of course, where she can be found on Christmas Day," Obama said, alluding to one of her jokes.
When Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina stumped her by asking where she was on Christmas - part of a series of questions on the Nigerian man accused of trying to use a bomb hidden in his underwear to bring down a Detroit-bound airliner that day - Kagan recovered quickly.
"You know, like all Jews," she quipped, "I was probably at a Chinese restaurant."
Speaking at the White House on Friday, Kagan mostly took a more serious tone.
She thanked Obama for trusting her enough to nominate her to the Supreme Court and pledged to fulfill an "obligation to uphold the rights and liberties afforded by our remarkable Constitution" and "to provide what the inscription on the Supreme Court building promises: equal justice under law."
Chief Justice John Roberts will swear in Kagan twice on Saturday. She will recite one oath as prescribed by the Constitution during a private ceremony in a conference room at the court with only her family present. Roberts will then administer a second oath, taken by judges, with Kagan's family and friends and reporters present.
Kagan won't be formally installed as a justice until Oct. 1 in a courtroom ceremony at the start of the court's new term.