Ketanji Brown Jackson has been confirmed by the US Senate as the first black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.
She was confirmed by a 53-47 vote on Thursday, April 7 after being nominated by President Joe Biden in late February, ending a month-long search for a replacement for Judge 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 judge when Judge Breyer retires at the end of the Supreme Court term.
To fulfill his 2020 campaign promise to nominate a black woman to the nation’s highest court, Mr. Biden interviewed at least three potential nominees, with Ms. Jackson, Leondra Kruger and J Michelle Childs being considered the top candidates. .
Ms Jackson, who was sworn in as a circuit judge on June 17 last year, eventually gained Mr Biden’s approval to replace the court’s longest-serving Liberal judge on Feb. 25.
Born and raised in Florida, Ms. Jackson is a double graduate of Harvard (undergraduate and law school), having been appointed to the federal bench in 2013 by then-President Barack Obama.
Ms. Jackson has previously been under consideration for a seat on the Supreme Court. When Judge Scalia passed away unexpectedly in early 2016, she was one of five candidates interviewed by then-President Barack Obama before choosing current U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland as his choice to succeed Scalia.
Mr. Breyer’s retirement while the Senate is in Democratic hands meant that Ms. Jackson did not suffer the fate of Mr. Garland, who has never received more than a hearing on his nomination.
After appearing before the Senate Committee last April, only one Republican, Texas Senator John Cornyn, voted to advance her nomination to the Senate. 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 Republican in the House of Representatives
Since 1999, Mrs. Jackson has been married to Dr. Patrick Brown, the chief of gastrointestinal surgery at Georgetown University Hospital.
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).
Ryan praised her Supreme Court nomination, tweeting, “Janna and I are incredibly happy for Ketanji and her entire family,” he tweeted. “Our politics may differ, but my praise for Ketanji’s intellect, character and integrity is unequivocal.”
She worked in journalism before going to law school
According to a questionnaire submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Ms. Jackson worked as a staff reporter and researcher for TIME magazine.
She was once a clerk to the Supreme Court justice she will replace
From 1999 to 2000, Ms. Jackson was a Justice Breyer clerk. She also served as a clerk for First Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Bruce Selya from 1997 to 1998, and for Massachusetts District Judge Patti Sarlis from 1996 to 1997.
She will be the only member of the Supreme Court to serve as a public defender
Many of the incumbent Supreme Court justices served as prosecutors before being appointed to court. Judge Sonya Sotomayor was an assistant district attorney in New York City for several years after graduating from Harvard Law School. Judge Samuel Alito served as New Jersey’s top federal prosecutor for three years before then-President George HW Bush nominated him to the bench in 1990. And Judge Brett Kavanaugh served as deputy independent counsel during Kenneth Starr’s years-long investigation into Bill Clinton.
But Ms. Jackson will be the first Supreme Court justice in recent history to spend time representing needy criminal defendants, having served as an assistant federal defense attorney in DC from 2005 to 2007.
She has angered Republicans with statements in high-profile cases involving former President Donald Trump
As a district court judge, Ms. Jackson made headlines when she issued a November 2019 ruling ordering former White House attorney Don McGahn to testify before the House Judiciary Committee.
Mr. McGahn had argued that as a senior aide to Mr. Trump, he enjoyed “absolute immunity” from being forced to testify in the commission’s investigation into whether Mr. hindered the 2016 elections.
Ms. Jackson wrote in her opinion that “absolute immunity from forced congressional process simply does not exist…because mandatory appearance by subpoena is 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 upholding District Judge Tanya Chutkan’s opinion that Trump could not prevent the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurgency from obtaining White House data that Biden had refused to claim executive power. privilege.
Republicans condemned her nomination
While Democrats widely praised Jackson’s nomination by Biden, Republicans were quick to criticize.
One of the critics was Sen. Josh Hawley (R – Missouri), who tore up Ms. Jackson’s criminal file of cases involving individuals convicted of possessing child sexual abuse images.
In a lengthy Twitter thread, Mr. Hawley cited a number of examples (without giving much, if any, context) of Ms. Jackson handing out lesser sentences to individuals convicted of such crimes, and called her writings and previous quotes on the subject disturbing.
He concluded: “This is a disturbing record for any judge, but especially for one nominated to the highest court in the country. Protecting the most vulnerable should not be in question. Sending child predators to prison shouldn’t be controversial.”
Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans also argued that Ms. Jackson’s nomination is proof that Mr Biden’s left wing party has a grip on the president.
Some of the most extreme setbacks came from Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who said her appointment would “humiliate” the Supreme Court and unfoundedly questioned the results of her law school entrance exam.
She kept calm in the face of controversial confirmation hearings
Ms. Jackson finally faced her congressional critics and supporters during her confirmation hearing, which lasted more than 30 hours over four days, beginning March 21.
During 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 wide variety of topics unrelated to her legal career, including her support of a private school and curious questions. whether she supported Critical Race Theory, a major conservative ogre of the past year.
Republicans on the committee criticized Ms. Jackson over her nine-year record as a federal judge, often asking hypothetical questions and interrupting her answers. She calmly but aggressively pushed back on Republicans who said she imposed light sentences on sex offenders, explained her sentencing process in detail, and told them that “nothing could be further from the truth.”
A more unlikely theme came from GOP senators, including South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, who expressed grievances about how Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was treated at his 2018 hearing.
The Independent’s Full analysis of key moments from the hearing can be found here.
On March 24, she returned to meet with senators behind closed doors, while members of the Judiciary Committee questioned outside experts called in by lawmakers to give their views on her confirmation.