One of Neil Gorsuch's First Major Decisions Could Be About Lunch
Despite the controversy and (now impossible) filibusters surrounding the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, President Trump's pick was sworn in earlier this week. As the bench's newest member, Gorsuch bumps Justice Elena Kagan from the most junior spot in the pecking order. And, according to the Associated Press, with that freshman status comes some surprising duties, including hearing out the complaints from the Supreme Court cafeteria.
Beyond trying cases of national and constitutional importance, the Supreme Court is also a building. A building with a gift shop, exhibits, a screening room for that informational film you'd watch on a civics class field trip, and a cafeteria where the court's employees and visitors can grab a bite in between testimonies or tour stops. As it turns out, the justices are, in some sense, in charge of the facilities. And since nobody wants to do the dirty work, it will fall upon Justice Gorsuch to take on some menial tasks.
Some of these duties (what you might call "hazing") are relatively practical, intern-esque responsibilities like taking notes at meetings, answering the door of the justices' private chamber when someone knocks, and having to wait to speak last in discussions. Most surprising, however, is the assignment to oversee issues regarding the cafeteria which can include everything from operations to out and out complaints.
Many justices have left their mark on the eatery during their first years on the bench. According to the AP, Justice Breyer oversaw an expansion of the salad bar and the implementation of Starbucks coffee. Justice Kagan installed a frozen yogurt machine and former justice Sandra Day O'Connor changed the kitchen's food vendors altogether.
In 2011, Justice Roberts explained the psychological reasoning behind giving the new judge on the block these more trivial responsibilities, saying "It's a way of bringing them back down to earth after the excitement of confirmation and appointment. Justice Kagan agreed, saying it was a reminder that they're "not so important after all."
"You have to spend an hour every month thinking about the chocolate-chip cookies."