Jackson confirmed as first Black female high court justice

Supreme_Court_Nomination_58289 In this image from video from Senate Television, Vice President Kamala Harris speaks after the Senate confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court at the U.S. Capitol, Thursday, April 7, 2022, in Washington. (Senate Television via AP)
Supreme Court Senate Votes Jackson Three Republican senators joined Democrats Thursday to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. (AP Graphic)
Jackson-Supreme Court Similarities The Supreme Court's newest member, Ketanji Brown Jackson, has much in common with her future colleagues. (AP Graphic)
Supreme Court-Jackson Confirmation The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. (AP Graphic)
Jackson Senate Judiciary Committee Vote The evenly-divided Senate Judiciary Committee tied on advancing the Supreme Court nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the full Senate. (AP Graphic)
Supreme Court Confirmation Lengths The path to confirmation to the Supreme Court can be speedy or take months. (AP Graphic)
Supreme_Court_Nomination_45555 Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., meets with reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, April 5, 2022. Earlier, three Republican senators broke from their party to support Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's historic nomination to the Supreme Court. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Supreme_Court_Nomination_77338 Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson arrives to meet Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Supreme_Court_Nomination_32552 FILE - Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is sworn in for her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee March 21, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)
Supreme_Court_Nomination_76340 Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., right, speaks during a press conference as the Senate holds a confirmation vote for Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on Capitol Hill, Thursday, April 7, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)
Supreme_Court_Nomination_60266 Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., departs the chamber just after the vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson to be the first Black woman on the high court, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, April 7, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Supreme_Court_Nomination_88339 Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., center, joined by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, center left, speaks to reporters just after the vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, securing her place as the first Black woman on the high court, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, April 7, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Supreme_Court_Nomination_Biden_58114 President Joe Biden holds hands with Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as they watch the Senate vote on her confirmation from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, April 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Supreme_Court_Nomination_42733 In this image from video from Senate Television, the Senate votes at the U.S. Capitol on the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to become a Supreme Court justice Thursday, April 7, 2022 in Washington. (Senate Television via AP)
Supreme_Court_Nomination_10716 Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, from left, Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, and Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., walk from the House to the Senate chamber to attend the vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, securing her place as the first Black woman on the high court, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, April 7, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Retired US District Judge Vanessa Gilmore reflects on Ketanji Brown Jackson joining the Supreme Court

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court on Thursday, shattering a historic barrier by securing her place as the first Black female justice and giving President Joe Biden a bipartisan endorsement for his promised effort to diversify the high court.

Cheers rang out in the Senate chamber as Jackson, a 51 year-old appeals court judge with nine years experience on the federal bench, was confirmed 53-47, mostly along party lines but with three Republican votes. Presiding over the vote was Vice President Kamala Harris, also the first Black woman to reach her high office.

Biden tweeted afterward that “we’ve taken another step toward making our highest court reflect the diversity of America.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer exulted that it was “a wonderful day, a joyous day, an inspiring day — for the Senate, for the Supreme Court and for the United States of America.”

Harris 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. The two were expected to speak, along with Harris, at the White House Friday.

During four days of Senate hearings last month, 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 U.S. Sentencing Commission.

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

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

“This is a tremendously historic day in the White House and in the country,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki after the vote. “And this is a fulfillment of a promise the president made to the country.”

The atmosphere was joyful, though the Senate was divided, as Thursday’s votes were cast. Senators of both parties sat at their desks and stood to vote, a tradition reserved for the most important matters. The 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 the Congressional Black caucus, stood at the back of the chamber.

Harris called out the tally, pausing with emotion, and Democrats erupted in loud applause and cheers, Schumer pumping his fists. A handful of Republicans stayed and clapped, but most by then had left.

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

Statements from Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah all said the same thing — they might not always agree with Jackson, but they found her to be enormously well qualified for the job. Collins and Murkowski both decried increasingly partisan confirmation fights, which only worsened during the battles over Trump’s three picks. Collins said the process was “broken” and Murkowski called it “corrosive” and “more detached from reality by the year.”

Biden, a veteran of a more bipartisan Senate, said from the day of 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 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, Jackson will be the second youngest member of the court after Barrett, 50. She will join a court on which no one is yet 75, the first time that has happened in nearly 30 years.

Jackson’s first term will be marked by cases involving race, both in college admissions and voting rights. She has pledged to sit out the court’s consideration of Harvard’s admissions program since she is a member of its board of overseers. But the court could split off a second case involving a challenge to the University of North Carolina’s admissions process, which might allow her to weigh in on the issue.

Judith Browne Dianis, executive director the Advancement Project, a civil rights organization, said Jackson will make the court more reflective of communities that are most impacted by the judiciary.

“The highest court in the land now will have a firsthand perspective of how the law impacts communities of color — via voting rights, police misconduct, abortion access, housing discrimination or the criminal legal system, among other issues,” she said. “This will ultimately benefit all Americans.”

Jackson could wait as long as three months to be sworn in, as the court’s session generally ends in late June or early July. She remains a judge on the federal appeals court in Washington, but she stepped away from cases there when she was nominated in February.

Republicans spent the confirmation hearings strongly questioning her sentencing record, including the sentences she handed down in child pornography cases, which they argued were too light. Jackson declared that “nothing could be further from the truth” and explained her reasoning in detail. Democrats said she was in line with other judges in her decisions.

The GOP questioning in the Judiciary Committee showed the views of many Republicans, though, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said in a floor speech Wednesday that Jackson “never got tough once in this area.”

Democrats criticized the Republicans’ questioning.

“You could try and create a straw man here, but it does not hold,” said New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker at the committee’s vote earlier this week. The panel deadlocked on the nomination 11-11, but the Senate voted to discharge it from committee and moved ahead with her confirmation.

In an impassioned moment during the hearings last month, Booker, who is Black, told Jackson that he felt emotional watching her testify. He said he saw “my ancestors and yours” in her image.

“Don’t worry, my sister,” Booker said. “Don’t worry. God has got you. And how do I know that? Because you’re here, and I know what it’s taken for you to sit in that seat.”


Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro, Jessica Gresko, Zeke Miller and Farnoush Amiri in Washington and Aaron Morrison in New York contributed to this report.


Follow the AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/ketanji-brown-jackson

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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