Supreme Court Justices Consider Sotomayor a New Family Member

When Sonia Sotomayor takes her seat on the court next week for the first time, it will feel -- for the other justices --a little like having a new relative at the table for Thanksgiving.

"As far as the composition of the court, you're bringing in basically, and this word can be overused, you're bringing in a family member. It changes the whole family," Justice Clarence Thomas said, in an interview for a C-SPAN feature production on the Supreme Court.

Chief Justice John Roberts was more frank.

"I suspect it's like people look at their families. You know, this is the family how could it, you know, be different," Roberts told C-SPAN. "But you do get new arrivals in both of those situations. It's a tremendous sense of loss."

VIDEO: Sonia Sotomayors female predecessors had difficulty finding appropriate robes.
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Roberts said a new member changes everything about the Court -- even where everyone sits.

"We move the seats around in the courtroom. The seats are by order of seniority," he said. "To some extent it's unsettling. You quickly get to view the court as composed of these members, and it becomes kind of hard to think of it as involving anyone else."

Justice Anthony Kennedy said having a new member was "stressful."

"We so admire our colleagues," Kennedy said, "We wonder, oh, will it ever be the same?"

Video of ABC News Top Line
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The Court is bound by routine and traditions that carry certain expectations for its junior member.

"When we meet in the conference there are no staff members present," Justice Samuel Alito said. "And occasionally someone will knock on the door. It's the job of the junior Justice to get up and answer the door. And usually it's somebody's glasses or a memo or something like that."

According to former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, one thing that will be easier for Judge Sotomayor than her female predecessors will be finding appropriate attire.

"When I first sat on the court I had a plain black robe that I'd used in Arizona. I just put it on over whatever I was wearing," O'Connor told C-SPAN. "Nobody in those days made judicial white collars for women. I discovered that the only places you could get them would be in England or France."

VIDEO: Sotomayor confirmed as Supreme Court Justice
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Ginsburg's Judicial College from South Africa

Nowadays, there are more options, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told C-SPAN.

"This one, the robe is from England, but the collar is from Cape Town, South Africa," Ginsburg said, displaying a women's black judicial robe and a feminine white collar.

"Sandra Day O'Connor and I thought it would be appropriate if we included as part of our robe something typical of a woman," she explained.

Sotomayor will take the bench as only the court's third woman, but with a new robe that's uniquely her own.

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