Monday marks the first day that newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch will hear cases after a bruising confirmation battle.
Perry v. Merit Systems Protection Board, the first case before the justices Monday, concerns jurisdiction over certain types of federal employment lawsuits.
The dispute is one of three cases Gorsuch is hearing in his first day on the high court bench, a week after he was sworn in.
Gorsuch apologized to Landau for "taking up so much time" as he wrapped up his questions.
Throughout the one-hour argument, Gorsuch stepped in three times, posing a series of questions each time, Reuters reports.
Gorsuch, 49, succeeds one his heroes, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who famously insisted the court should decide cases based on the literal words of the law, not its objective or how it has been interpreted by lower courts. At the start of the morning session, Chief Justice John Roberts publicly acknowledged his new colleague in the crowded courtroom, wishing him a "long and happy career in our common calling".
Gorsuch responded briefly to thank Roberts for the "warm welcome". He asked crisp and colloquial questions, and he kept asking them if he did not find the lawyers' answers satisfactory.
Should the court decide to go forward, Gorsuch's votes and opinions in religious liberty cases as a judge on the federal appeals court in Denver would seem to make him more inclined to side with the church, and potentially provide the decisive, tie-breaking vote if the rest of the court is divided between liberals and conservatives, Bindas said. They declined to hear the long-shot appeal of a New Mexico lawyer who sued Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) over his refusal to even grant a hearing to Merrick Garland - the judge who might have sat where Gorsuch now sits had the election turned out differently.
Gorsuch was a less enthusiastic participant in the next two arguments, but he again focused on the "plain language" of the statutes in his questioning.
Today the court hears argument in two cases. He fills the seat left vacant since last February, when Justice Antonin Scalia died unexpectedly. "What am I missing?"
Gorsuch, however, was quiet for the first half of arguments in that case, while Neal Katyal argued on behalf of the petitioner. Gorsuch's seatmate Sotomayor, although still a relatively junior justice, was second only to Scalia last term in the average number of questions asked, according to data compiled by SCOTUSblog.
With Justice Stephen Breyer leading the charge, the court seemed to back the government's solution to the standing problem.
Gorsuch sparred with a lawyer for a developer hoping to build on the land but did not directly engage with Katyal. If the court rules in favor of the church, it could narrow the separation between church and state.