US Federal Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed as a Supreme Court justice on Thursday, making history as the first black woman to reach the highest court.
Jackson was confirmed by a 53-47 vote in the Senate, with three Republicans joining all of the Democratic senators in voting in favor of her nomination.
Here’s a look at what his nomination means.
What does Jackson bring to the bench?
Jackson previously worked as a law clerk for Judge Stephen Breyer — whom she will eventually replace — after graduating from Harvard Law School. She worked as a public defender and served on the agency that helps shape federal sentencing policy, before being confirmed by the Senate as a federal district court judge in 2013 and the last year as a federal appeals judge.
In Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Democrats used of a graph this shows that Jackson compares favorably, in terms of experience, to recent judges.
“She is one of the most qualified Supreme Court nominees I have ever considered in my 48 years here,” Sen. Pat Leahy, the longest-serving Democratic senator, said Thursday.
While Senate conservatives like Mitch McConnell have portrayed her as a “radical left” candidate, retired United States Court of Appeals Justice Thomas Griffith, appointed by George W. Bush, said in his testimony last month that Jackson was “an independent jurist who judges on the basis of facts and law, not partisanship.”
How were the hearings?
Gone are the days when Antonin Scalia could be upheld by a 98-0 tally (1986), or even 13 years ago when judge Sonia Sotomayor was upheld by a comfortable 68-31 margin.
The Supreme Court has immense influence on the contours of American public policy, arguably more so now that Congress is often polarized and unable to reach bipartisan agreement on many important issues (e.g., comprehensive immigration reform ). Senators increasingly fear the electoral consequences of going “against” their party over a judicial candidate.
While not as explosive as the confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas (1991) and Brett Kavanaugh (2018) – both of whom were charged with sexual misconduct – Jackson’s hearings were highly controversial.
Republicans have attempted to portray Jackson as soft on crime, forensically scrutinizing the sentences she handed down in cases involving defendants who possessed child pornography. Democratic Sen. Cory Booker called the line of attack ‘beyond pale’, and his party accused Republicans of picking cases and not focusing on an overall conviction record consistent with the convictions of even some Republican-appointed federal judges. Additionally, Jackson’s nomination had the support of the Fraternal National Order of Police.
What does his confirmation represent?
Jackson is only the third black judge and sixth female judge overall. The overwhelming majority of the 116 justices in American history are white males of European descent and largely Protestant in terms of religious affiliation.
A recent Reuters report highlighted gradual progress in recent years in the percentage of US law school graduates who are not white, but black students are underrepresented in first-year law courses by compared to the African-American share of the American population.
“I’m sure there will be more people who didn’t see themselves included in the law who will look up to Associate Justice Jackson and be inspired to pursue their dream of becoming a law student,” the dean of law at Law told Reuters. Rutgers, Kimberly Mutcherson.
The influence of this historic confirmation could transcend borders and “set an incredible example for many women and young girls here in Canada”, Gemma Grey-Hall, provincial candidate in the Ontario elections, recently told CBC News.
Richard Wagner, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, said in 2020 that there was “a growing awareness of the need for our courts, including our highest court, to reflect the diversity of Canadians. I would certainly welcome any ideas and insights this might bring.
What happens after confirmation?
Jackson likely won’t be sworn in until the summer, as Breyer will see the current term end in June. She will have to decide very soon if she will stay in her current federal position until then.
There is no term limit for positions on the Supreme Court; Judge William O. Douglas served a record of over 36 years (until 1975).
Jackson will not affect the balance of the court, since six justices were appointed by Republican presidents and three by Democrats.
Since recent candidates endorsed by Republican politicians have been selected and endorsed by the conservative federalist societyliberal lawyers worry about a potential regression in the scope of abortion and gay rights, as well as a potential bias in favor of state governments over the federal executive on policy issues.
Jackson’s first term is scheduled to begin Oct. 3. Cases for this term so far include those related to the powers of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Trade Commission, voting rights and a case that will pit religious rights against LGBTQ rights, according to a designer of websites refused to provide its professional services to a homosexual couple. Jackson said she intends to recuse herself from a matter involving the Harvard admissions process, as she serves on the university’s board of trustees.
What about future court picks?
He was the first Supreme Court nominee for President Joe Biden. Will it be the last?
Judges only leave on retirement or death, a situation seen as undesirable by many legal experts, some of whom have proposed having a floating number of judges to remove any partisan pressure judges may face to cede room for a younger judge. Clarence Thomas, nearly 74, will be the oldest judge after Breyer’s retirement.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham made it clear this week that the White House could be roughed up for future candidates after November, when the midterm congressional elections take place.
“If we get the Senate back, and we’re in charge of that body, and there are legal openings, we’ll talk to our colleagues on the other side. But if we were in charge, [Jackson] would not have been before this committee,” Graham said. “You would have had someone more moderate than that.
So far, Biden’s nominations have led to Senate confirmation of 15 federal judges for U.S. appeals courts and 43 judges for federal district courts, a pace seen as the most productive for an administration of first term since Ronald Reagan.
For Democrats, it sounds like what they saw as Republican filibuster in 2016, when the party refused to hold hearings for President Barack Obama’s final Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, who is now a prosecutor. general.
McConnell, then Senate Majority Leader, argued that “the American people should have a say in the direction of the Court” in the next election. Republicans swept this election, with President Donald Trump ultimately picking three conservative justices for the current 6-3 tilt.