Jackson confirmed as first black female high court justice

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Jackson Confirmed As First Black Female High Court Justice Jackson Confirmed As First Black Female High Court Justice
Supreme Court Nomination Biden, © AP/Press Association Images
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By Mary Clare Jalonick, Associated Press

The US Senate has confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, securing her place as the first black female justice and giving President Joe Biden a bipartisan endorsement for his effort to diversify the court.

Ms Jackson, a 51 year-old appeals court judge with nine years of experience on the federal bench, was confirmed 53-47, mostly along party lines but with three Republican votes.

Presiding was Vice President Kamala Harris, also the first black woman to reach that high office.


The final vote count of 53-47 is displayed (Senate Television via AP)

Ms Jackson will take her seat when Justice Stephen Breyer retires this summer, solidifying the liberal wing of the 6-3 conservative-dominated court.

She joined Mr Biden at the White House to watch the vote, embracing as it came in.

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During the four days of Senate hearings last month, Ms Jackson spoke of her parents’ struggles through racial segregation and said her “path was clearer” than theirs as a black American after the enactment of civil rights laws.

She attended Harvard University, served as a public defender, worked at a private law firm and was appointed as a member of the US Sentencing Commission.

She told senators she would apply the law “without fear or favour”, and pushed back on Republican attempts to portray her as too lenient on criminals she had sentenced.

Ms Jackson will be just the third black justice, after Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas, and the sixth woman.


President Joe Biden goes to hug Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson (Susan Walsh/AP)

She will join three other women, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan Amy Coney Barrett – meaning that four of the nine justices will be women for the first time in history.

Her eventual elevation to the court will be a respite for Democrats who fought three bruising battles over former president Donald Trump’s nominees and watched Republicans cement a conservative majority in the final days of Mr Trump’s term with the confirmation of Coney Barrett.

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While Ms Jackson will not change the balance, she will secure a legacy on the court for Mr Biden and fulfil his 2020 campaign pledge to nominate the first black female justice.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said ahead of the vote that Ms Jackson’s confirmation would be a “joyous day – joyous for the Senate, joyous for the Supreme Court, joyous for America”.

Despite the efforts to tarnish her record, Ms Jackson eventually won three GOP votes. The final tally was far from the overwhelming bipartisan confirmations for Mr Breyer and other justices in decades past, but it was still a significant bipartisan accomplishment for Mr Biden in the 50-50 split Senate after GOP senators aggressively worked to paint Ms Jackson as too liberal and soft on crime.

Statements from Sens Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney all said the same thing — they might not always agree with Ms Jackson, but they found her to be enormously well qualified for the job.

Ms Collins and Ms Murkowski both decried increasingly partisan confirmation fights, which only worsened during the battles over Mr Trump’s three picks.

Ms Collins said the process was “broken” and Ms Murkowski called it “corrosive” and “more detached from reality by the year.”

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Mr Biden, a veteran of a more bipartisan Senate, said from the day of Mr Breyer’s retirement announcement in January that he wanted support from both parties for his history-making nominee, and he invited Republicans to the White House as he made his decision.

It was an attempted reset from Mr Trump’s presidency, when Democrats vociferously opposed the three nominees, and from the end of President Barack Obama’s, when Republicans blocked nominee Merrick Garland from getting a vote.

Once sworn in, Ms Jackson will be the second youngest member of the court after Ms Barrett, 50. She will join a court on which no-one is yet 75, the first time that has happened in nearly 30 years.

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