On Thursday, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed by the Senate to the Supreme Court with a 53-47 vote. Jackson replaces Justice Stephen Breyer, and she is President Biden’s first nomination to the Supreme Court.
Back in January, Justice Stephen Breyer announced his plans to retire. Justice Breyer was the court’s oldest member at 83 years old, and he had served for 27 years after being nominated by President Clinton in 1994. As one of the court’s more liberal justices, he had been encouraged to retire in order to allow Biden to appoint another liberal justice to the court. Jackson had previously clerked for Justice Breyer.
Justice Jackson’s appointment and confirmation are historic, as she is the first Black woman to serve on the nation’s highest court. Jackson has been lauded by many for her extensive experience to serve on the court. Jackson, who grew up in Miami, Florida, attended both Harvard University and Harvard Law School, where she served as an editor of the Harvard Law Review.
Jackson has served as a public defender, becoming the first public defender to serve on the Supreme Court. She has also served on both the DC Circuit Court of Appeals and as a US District Judge. Additionally, she served as a Vice-Chair and Commissioner of the US Sentencing Commission. She has also clerked at every level of the federal judiciary.
During her confirmation hearings, Jackson spoke about her experience as a working mom with two daughters. Jackson directly addressed her daughters, who were in the audience supporting their mom as she gave her opening statement. Jackson said, “Girls, I know it has not been easy as I have tried to navigate the challenges of juggling my career and motherhood. And I fully admit that I did not always get the balance right. But I hope that you have seen that with hard work, determination, and love, it can be done. I am so looking forward to seeing what each of you chooses to do with your amazing lives in this incredible country. I love you so much.” Her statements went viral and resonated with many, especially working mothers. Photos of her daughter Leila proudly looking on as her mother spoke also went viral.
During confirmation hearings, Republican senators subjected her to intense questioning, including on prior sentences she gave involving child pornography. Some Republican senators, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz, asked her numerous questions on critical race theory. Democrats criticized the questioning as unnecessary and harsh. Meanwhile, Democrats tried to highlight Jackson’s extensive court experience. Since Democrats currently have a majority, Jackson only had to ensure she had support from every Democratic senator. Overall, three GOP senators joined Democrats in supporting Jackson’s confirmation, Senators Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Susan Collins of Maine. Other GOP senators also supported her last year during her confirmation to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.
In remarks to the press after Jackson’s confirmation, President Biden said, “And, folks, you know, yesterday — this is not only a sunny day. I mean this from the bottom of my heart: This is going to let so much shine — sunshine on so many young women, so many young Black women, so many minorities, that it’s real. It’s real. We’re going to look back — nothing to do with me — we’re going to look back and see this as a moment of real change in American history.”