In a historic vote, the Senate on Thursday confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, which will make her the first African American woman to serve on the nation’s highest court.
Three Republican senators — Susan Collins (R-Maine), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) — broke rank, joining all members of the Democratic caucus for a 53-47 vote.
Murkowski, in a Monday press release, explained that her support “rests on Judge Jackson’s qualifications, which no one questions; her demonstrated judicial independence; her demeanor and temperament; and the important perspective she would bring to the court as a replacement for Justice Breyer.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Thursday, hailed Jackson’s confirmation as a “joyous, momentous, groundbreaking day.”
“In the 233-year history of the Supreme Court, never, never has a Black woman held the title of justice. Ketanji Brown Jackson will be the first, and I believe the first of more to come,” he said.
President Biden tapped Jackson for the post in late February, lauding her “extraordinary qualifications, deep experience and intellect,” and “rigorous judicial record.”
Retired Judge Bruce Selya, who was appointed by former President Ronald Reagan, and for whom Jackson clerked, described her saying, “I see some of the same qualities in her that I saw in Ruth Bader Ginsburg — humility, the ability to inspire others in a quiet way, not at the top of her voice.”
“She is very smart, very well informed, and she’s very hardworking and focused,” said Selya. “She gets the big picture.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) framed the vote as one more example of the Biden administration allowing “radicals [to] run the show.”
“The far left got the reckless inflationary spending they wanted,” McConnell said. “The far left has gotten the insecure border they wanted. And today, the far left will get the Supreme Court justice they wanted.”
During her nomination hearings in late March, Jackson was pilloried by some conservative senators who claimed she was lax in sentencing sex offenders — an assertion she and multiple fact-checkers rejected.
She was also accused of harboring a “hostile” view of anti-abortion women and of having “attacked” them in a legal brief she wrote roughly two decades earlier. One Republican senator asked her at what point “equal protection of the law” extends to a human being (presumably, an allusion to the rights of unborn children) and another asked whether “an unborn child can feel pain at 20 weeks.”
She responded to direct accusations and other questions insinuating a bias, by stressing that she sets her personal and religious beliefs aside when ruling on all cases.
When asked about specific abortion-related rulings, such as Roe v. Wade or Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Jackson did state that “Roe and Casey are the settled law of the Supreme Court concerning the right to terminate a woman’s pregnancy.”
However, she also stated that whatever the Supreme Court decides in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, “will be the precedent of the Supreme Court.”
Pro-abortion rights groups celebrated Jackson’s confirmation.
“Judge Jackson brings decades of experience to the Court and a demonstrated record of defending and upholding our constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms — including reproductive freedom,” said NARAL Pro-Choice America President Mini Timmaraju, in a press release. “Now more than ever, we need justices like Judge Jackson who are committed to protecting equal justice for everybody.”
Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, also delighted in the news calling Jackson’s confirmation “an important moment in the necessary work of rebuilding and restoring the courts to protect our freedoms. Judge Jackson will be an important voice in shaping the Supreme Court’s direction, and we look forward to seeing her brilliance for decades to come.”
Jackson, 51, was born in Washington D.C. and grew up in Miami. She graduated from both Harvard University and Harvard Law School. She has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, and as vice chair for the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
In addition to being the first Black woman to serve the high court, she will also be the first former public defender. Jackson will be sworn in after Justice Stephen Breyer officially steps down from his position this summer. As she will replace Breyer, Jackson is not expected to change the liberal-conservative balance of the court.