The Speaker
Tuesday, 18 June 2024 – 15:51

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson becomes first African American Woman on the Supreme Court

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson has secured enough votes to become the first African American woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

Jackson, who has served as a Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit since June 2021, has made history after being confirmed as the replacement for Stephen Breyer.

She was confirmed by a margin of 53-47, with almost all of the Republican Senators voting against her confirmation.

Jackson will be sworn in the summer once Breyer steps down from his role.

Her appointment to the court fulfils President Joe Biden’s campaign promise that he would appoint the first African American woman to the bench.


Who is Justice Jackson?

Having graduated from Harvard University, where she served as editor of the Harvard Law Review, Jackson built her career as a public defender in Washington DC. She will be the only member of the current court with a public defence background and the first with such a background since Thurgood Marshall in 1967. Jackson later joined a private practice before becoming a Supreme Court clerk for Justice Breyer, the man she is now replacing.

In 2013, Jackson was nominated by President Barack Obama for the District Court for Washington DC, where she served until joining the Court of Appeal, DC Circuit in 2021. 

Having served in the Court of Appeal for less than a year, Jackson has had relatively little time to pass judgements on major US cases, and much of her legal philosophy is not known. However, it is expected that she will be a liberal judge based on her former rulings whilst in the District Court.

Whilst serving in the District Court, Jackson authored a number of judicial opinions which unveil her liberal leanings, and she blocked a number of Trump administration policies whilst serving on the court.


What does her confirmation mean for the Supreme Court?

Jackson will be a liberal member of the US Supreme Court, which is typically known for being a highly politicised court. 

However, her appointment will not change the current makeup of the court, with outgoing Justice Breyer also being a liberal nominee, having been nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1994.

Supreme Court nominees serve for life, and only leave the bench if they die or elect to retire. At 51, this means Jackson could serve on the court for the next 30-40 years. She becomes the second-youngest member of the current court, just months older than Amy Coney Barret, who was nominated by President Donald Trump in 2020.

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