Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed by the US Senate as the first black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.
She was confirmed Thursday, April 7, by a vote of 53 to 47 after being nominated by President Joe Biden in late February, ending a month-long search for a replacement for Justice Stephen G. Breyer.
All 50 Democrats voted to confirm her, as did Republicans Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine.
Ms. Jackson will be sworn in as the next justice when Justice Breyer retires at the end of the Supreme Court’s term.
To fulfill his 2020 campaign promise to appoint a black woman to the nation’s highest court, Mr. Biden interviewed at least three potential candidates, with Ms. Jackson, Leondra Kruger and J. Michelle Childs believed to be the front-runners.
Ms. Jackson, who was sworn in as a district court judge on June 17 last year, finally secured confirmation from Mr. Biden to replace the court’s longest-serving liberal justice on February 25.
Ms. Jackson is a Florida native with a double degree from Harvard (Bachelor’s and Law) who was appointed to the Federal Bank in 2013 by then-President Barack Obama.
Ms Jackson has previously been considered for a seat on the Supreme Court. When Judge Scalia died unexpectedly in early 2016, she was one of five candidates then-President Barack Obama interviewed before selecting current US Attorney General Merrick Garland as his choice to succeed Scalia.
Mr Breyer’s resignation while the Senate is in Democratic hands meant Ms Jackson did not have to suffer the fate of Mr Garland, who never received a hearing on his nomination.
After appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee last April, only one Republican, Texas Senator John Cornyn, voted to advance her Senate nomination. Only three from the GOP side – Sens Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham and Lisa Murkowski – voted to confirm her for the DC Circuit.
Here’s what else you need to know about Ms. Jackson.
She is related to a former top Republican in the House of Representatives
Since 1999, Ms. Jackson has worked with Georgetown University Hospital’s chief gastrointestinal surgeon, Dr. Patrick Brown, married.
dr Brown has a brother, William, who is married to a woman named Dana Little, whose sister Janna is married to former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R – Wisconsin).
Praising her High Court nomination, Mr Ryan tweeted: “Janna and I are incredibly happy for Ketanji and all her family,” he tweeted. “Our policies may differ, but my praise for Ketanji’s intellect, for her character and for her integrity is unequivocal.”
Before studying law, she worked in journalism
According to a questionnaire submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Ms. Jackson worked as a reporter and researcher for 1992 and 1993 TIME Magazine.
She once worked for the Supreme Court Justice who will replace her
From 1999 to 2000, Ms. Jackson was a clerk with Justice Breyer. She also served as a clerk for First Circuit Court of Appeals Justice Bruce Selya from 1997-1998 and for Massachusetts District Judge Patti Sarlis from 1996-1997.
She will be the only Supreme Court member to have served as a public defender
Many of the sitting Supreme Court justices served in the prosecutor’s office before being appointed to the bench. Judge Sonya Sotomayor spent several years as an assistant district attorney in New York City after graduating from Harvard Law School. Judge Samual Alito served as New Jersey’s chief federal attorney for three years before then-President George HW Bush nominated him for the bench in 1990. And Judge Brett Kavanaugh served as assistant independent counsel during Kenneth Starr’s years-long investigation into Bill Clinton.
But Ms. Jackson will be the first Supreme Court justice in recent memory to have spent time representing penniless criminal defendants, having served as an assistant federal defense attorney in DC from 2005-007.
She has angered Republicans with rulings on high-profile cases involving former President Donald Trump
As a district court judge, Ms Jackson made headlines when she issued a ruling in November 2019 ordering former White House Counsel Don McGahn to testify before the House Judiciary Committee.
Mr McGahn had argued that as a senior adviser to Mr Trump, he enjoyed “absolute immunity” from being required to testify in the committee’s investigation into whether Mr Trump obstructed former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Ms. Jackson wrote in her statement that “absolute immunity from forced congressional proceedings simply does not exist…because mandatory subpoena appearances are a legal construct, not a political one, and under the Constitution no one is above the law.”
In December, she was a member of a three-judge panel that upheld the opinion of District Judge Tanya Chutkan, in which she found that Mr. Trump had ordered the House of Representatives Special Committee to Investigate the 6th Privilege Insurgency.
Republicans condemned her nomination
While Democrats widely praised Mr. Biden’s nomination of Ms. Jackson, Republicans were quick to voice criticism.
Among the critics was Sen Josh Hawley (R – Missouri), who broke into Ms Jackson’s sentencing record of cases of people convicted of possessing child sexual abuse images.
In a lengthy Twitter thread, Mr. Hawley listed a number of examples (without giving much, if any, context) of Ms. Jackson handing out reduced sentences to people convicted of such crimes, citing her writings and earlier quotes this issue as worrying.
He concluded: “This is a worrying tally for any judge, but especially one nominated for the country’s highest court. Protecting the most vulnerable should not be an issue. Sending child molesters to prison should not be controversial.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans also claimed that Ms Jackson’s nomination was evidence that the left wing of Mr Biden’s party had a firm grip on the President.
Some of the most extreme opposition came from Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who said her nomination would “humiliate” the Supreme Court and groundlessly challenge her law school admissions test scores.
She remained calm in the face of controversial confirmation hearings
Ms. Jackson finally faced her congressional critics and supporters at her confirmation hearing, which lasted more than 30 hours over four days beginning March 21.
In marathon sessions before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Ms. Jackson answered questions about her legal philosophy, her views on the limitations of federal powers, as well as a variety of issues unrelated to her legal career, including her support of a DC-area private school and curious questions about whether she supports Critical Race Theory, a big conservative boogeyman of the past year.
Republicans on the committee grilled Ms. Jackson about her nine years as a federal judge, frequently asking hypothetical questions and interrupting her answers. She calmly but aggressively pushed back Republicans, who said she easily convicted sex offenders, explaining her sentencing process in detail and telling them “nothing could be further from the truth.”
A rather unlikely topic came from GOP senators, including South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, who expressed grievances about how Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was treated during his 2018 confirmation hearing.
that of the independent A full analysis of key moments from the hearing can be found here.
On March 24, she again met with senators behind closed doors while members of the Judiciary Committee interviewed outside experts who were asked by lawmakers to share their views for their confirmation.