Ketanji Brown Jackson will be the first Black woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, concluding a contentious confirmation process and weeks of criticism from some Republican lawmakers.
The Senate gave the stamp of approval to President Joe Biden’s nominee on Thursday afternoon with a vote of 53-47. Democrats unanimously supported Jackson, while 47 of 50 Republican senators voted against her confirmation.
Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Black person to serve in her role, announced the final vote tally.
Earlier this week, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing to discuss Jackson’s nomination, which ended in a tied vote. Each of the 11 Republican senators on the committee voted against advancing Jackson’s nomination.
Jackson, 51, will be the third Black person and the sixth woman to hold the lifetime appointment. She will be the only former public defender on the bench.
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Jackson, who currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C., Circuit, previously clerked for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, whose seat she will fill once he retires at the end of the court’s current term.
During her confirmation hearing, Jackson named Judge Constance Baker Motley, who in 1966 became the first Black woman to serve as a federal court judge, as one of the inspirations for her career path.
“I so admired the fact that she was the first. It’s not necessarily easy to be the first, but it is an opportunity to show other people what is possible,” Jackson said during the hearing on March 23. “When you’re the first, it means no one has ever done it before like you, and there may be hundreds of thousands of people who might have wanted that opportunity and thought, ‘I can’t do that because there’s no one there like me.’ ”
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The announcement of Jackson’s confirmation was met with celebration and praise.
In a written statement, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner — president of the African American Mayors Association — said: “We are excited about Judge Jackson’s confirmation because we understand that her breadth and depth of legal experience, lived experiences and deep commitment to equal justice will ensure all Americans, no matter their race or background, are better represented on the highest court.”
In a joint statement, Black Voters Matter co-founders Cliff Albright and LaTosha Brown and legal director April Albright said that “Brown Jackson is, simply put, the most qualified justice the Court has ever seen. Even as Republican senators lobbed racist and nonsensical attacks on her work and credibility during her confirmation hearings, Brown Jackson let her long career in public service, deep legal expertise, and calm temperament speak for themselves.”
Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change, stated that Jackson “has raised the bar in terms of qualifications for the Supreme Court — greatly raising our country’s expectations for who should sit on our courts.”
Robinson added, “We must also remember that Black activism — and Black voters — brought us to this long-awaited moment. Black voters and activists made President Biden promise to appoint a Black woman to the Supreme Court, and Black voters and activists made him keep that promise. We demanded representation, not just in gender and race but in perspective and values.”
“Black activism has proven itself the strongest force to counteract the dangerous yet carefully-planned, right-wing takeover of the Supreme Court and our judiciary. Black voters will also continue changing the face of the courts by voting in critical races for judges across the country this year and every year,” Robinson said.
Correction: An earlier version of this report misstated the number of Republicans who voted against the confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to be the next justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Forty-seven Republican senators opposed Jackson’s confirmation. This story has been updated.