Jurisprudence

Ketanji Brown Jackson Confirmed to Become the First Black Woman to Serve on the Supreme Court

Biden and Jackson clasp hands in front of a screen showing the Senate floor and the vote
President Joe Biden and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson watch the Senate vote on her nomination to be an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, on Thursday. Mandel Ngan/Getty Images

On Thursday, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court by a 53–47 Senate vote, meaning she will become the first Black woman to sit on the court in the nation’s history.

Jackson won the vote of three Republicans—Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Mitt Romney of Utah—as well as all 50 Democrats. Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Black woman to sit in that office, presided over the final vote.

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The Senate gallery burst into applause upon confirmation.

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Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia spoke to the historic nature of the moment. “Ketanji Brown Jackson’s improbable journey to the nation’s highest court is a reflection of our own journey through fits and starts for the nation’s highest ideals. She embodies the arc of our history,” Warnock said. “Yes, I’m a senator. I’m a pastor. But beyond all of that, I’m the father of a young Black girl. I know how much it means for Judge Jackson to have navigated the double jeopardy of racism and sexism to now stand in the glory of this moment in her excellence. For my 5-year-old daughter and for so many young women in this country, but really if you’re thinking about it right, for all of us, seeing Judge Jackson ascend to the Supreme Court reflects the promise of progress on which our democracy rests.”

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Jackson’s confirmation hearings were marred by a Republican smear campaign to depict her as soft on pedophiles despite her sentencing record being very much in line with other federal judges.

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Jackson has served on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the D.C. District Court, and the federal sentencing commission. She has now won confirmation to federal positions four times at the U.S. Senate. Jackson will replace Justice Stephen Breyer, for whom she clerked, when he retires at the end of this term.

Slate has been following Judge Jackson’s confirmation process closely. You can listen to and read some of that coverage below.

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Why Ketanji Brown Jackson Was the Obvious Frontrunner to Replace Stephen Breyer

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