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Jackson confirmed as the first black woman in US Supreme Court

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 2022-04-07 Anthony France

Ketanji Brown Jackson has been confirmed as the first black woman to sit on the US Supreme Court in its 233-year history.

The 51-year-old judge secured the role following fierce questioning from critics.

Judge Jackson will also be the first former public defender to sit on the Supreme Court and the third black judge to sit.

The Senate on Thursday shattered a historic barrier at the same time giving President Joe Biden a bipartisan endorsement for his effort to diversify the high court.

Cheers rang out in the chamber as Mrs Jackson, who has nine years’ experience on the federal bench, was confirmed 53-47, mostly along party lines but with three Republican votes.

Presiding and emotionally announcing the vote was Vice President Kamala Harris, also the first black woman to reach her high office.

“This is a wonderful day, a joyous day, an inspiring day — for the Senate, for the Supreme Court and for the United States of America,” exulted Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

 (POOL/AFP via Getty Images) © Provided by Evening Standard (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The Senate’s upper galleries were almost full for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic two years ago, and about a dozen House members, part of the Congressional black caucus, stood at the back of the chamber.

Video: Watch Historic Moment Jackson Is Confirmed As First Black Woman On SCOTUS (Newsweek)


“We’re making history,” declared Republican Marilyn Strickland of Washington state.

Ms Harris, who paused with emotion as she read the vote, said as she left the Capitol that she was “overjoyed, deeply moved.”

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

During the four days of Senate hearings last month, Mrs 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.

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

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 Trump’s term with Barrett’s confirmation.

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

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