Judge Jackson approved by Senate, first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson (Photo courtesy of the White House)

By Talia Lissauer
Boston University News Service

After 233 years of the United States Supreme Court, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson crossed a major hurdle in becoming the first Black woman to serve on the United States Supreme Court after being approved by the Senate 53-47 on April 7. She will take the seat once she takes the constitutional and judicial oath when her successor retires. 

Jackson watched the Senate vote on her confirmation from the White House with President Joe Biden.

The 53 included all 48 Democrats in the house, the two independents that caucus with them and three Republicans — Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

She is the third African American and the sixth woman to serve on the Supreme Court bench. The first woman was confirmed in 1981, 13 years before Justice Stephen Breyer, whom Jackson is replacing, took the bench.

Jackson’s confirmation does not change the court’s ideology as it will remain 6-3, with a conservative-learning majority. 

Jackson was nominated in February by President Biden and went through three days of confirmation hearings with the Senate. Vice President Kamala Harris, the first woman and woman of color to serve that position, presided over the Senate during the vote and announced the confirmation. 

This confirmation fulfilled Biden’s campaign promise to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a press conference on April 7, after Jackson was confirmed.

“Obviously, this is a tremendously historic day in the White House and in the country, and this is a fulfillment of a promise the President made to the country,” Psaki said.

Psaki went on to say Jackson said she would meet with anyone who wants, which led to her meeting with 97 senators throughout this process.

“She further displayed her work ethic, extraordinary credentials, and character when she testified for over 20 hours and answered the most QFRs of any SCOTUS nominee ever,” Psaki said. 

This is the third time Jackson has been approved by the Senate and the second judicial nomination by Biden.

At the beginning of his term, Biden nominated Jackson for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. She was approved 53-44 on June 14, 2021, by the same senators that just approved her Supreme Court nomination.

Former President Barack Obama nominated her for United States District Court for the District of Columbia in 2013, and she was approved on March 23, 2013.

Justice Breyer announced his retirement on Jan. 27, with the condition that a replacement is confirmed by the Senate before then. Biden said he wanted to have a nomination by the end of February, which he did.

Among the three Republican senators that voted for Jackson was Sen. Mitt Romney, who announced earlier this week he would support her as a majority of his Republican colleagues announced they would not.

“I have concluded that she is a well-qualified jurist and a person of honor,” Romney said in a statement Monday afternoon. “While I do not expect to agree with every decision she may make on the Court, I believe that she more than meets the standard of excellence and integrity.”

Jackson’s confirmation process took six weeks, compared to the typical two to three months. She won’t be sworn in until the end of the term when Breyer officially leaves the bench.  

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