New Justice Gorsuch asks his first questions from Supreme Court bench

Despite his white hair, Gorsuch looked for all the world like a kid on his first day of high school, proud to be with the big guys, and sitting tall, with a tiny grin on his face.

During his first week as a Supreme Court Judge, Justice Neil Gorsuch will hear a religious liberty case from Missouri.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor seemed to agree. The court is back to its full contingent of nine members - five conservatives and four liberals - after being short-handed since Scalia's death more than 14 months ago.

"Where in the statute is that provided?" began Gorsuch as part of one case that examined which courts have jurisdiction in certain disputes dealing with federal workers.

Throughout the day, Gorsuch made numerous references to the "plain text" of laws, and he quizzed the attorneys as to why the law wasn't written exactly the way they were arguing it was supposed to be interpreted.

His new colleagues also seemed to be in jovial spirits. His silver hair looking recently trimmed, and he wore a dark red tie under his black robe.

Chief Justice Roberts had six days to prepare after his swearing-in. He rarely stopped smiling. The justices offered no explanation, but court observers speculate that it could be a sign that the justices expect they will be divided.

Chief Justice John Roberts opened the session welcoming Gorsuch to the bench and wishing him a long and happy career.

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He responded with a thanks for the "warm welcome". The justices released no high-profile decisions, added no new disputes to their docket, and heard three hours of oral arguments in dry, technical matters. And the new justice showed he had clear views on how the cases should be resolved.

In the second case, he repeatedly tried to elicit an answer from lawyer Shay Dvoretzky. "Your client, page 162, wants damages for itself". He stressed, as he had at his confirmation hearings, that the text of the law would matter more to him than whether it resulted in outcomes that might not be what Congress had intended. "What am I missing?"

"Who wrote this statute, somebody who takes pleasure pulling wings off flies?"

A former acting US solicitor general, Neal Katyal is now with the firm Hogan Lovells.

Democrats tried to block Gorsuch's nomination, but Republicans changed the Senate rules to keep the minority from being able to filibuster Supreme Court nominees. In three different cases, he argued to allow religious expression in public places - including the display of the Ten Commandments in a public park.

The junior justice on the Supreme Court has a number of duties created to serve as a reminder of their status as well as help them get accustomed to the job. Late last week, Missouri's newly elected governor said the state will no longer automatically turn down requests for money from churches. Katyal, for instance, was deputy solicitor general when Kagan ran the office under Obama.

He also apologized to Landau for asking so many questions in a row.

Gorsuch then said he was "sorry for taking up so much time", according to the AP account.

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