Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmed as first Black female high court justice

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Ketanji Brown Jackson is sworn in for her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee March 21, 2022.
Ketanji Brown Jackson is sworn in for her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee March 21, 2022.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File

The US Senate confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court on Thursday, shattering a historic barrier by securing her place as the first Black female justice.

Jackson, a 51-year-old appeals court judge with nine years of experience on the US federal bench, was confirmed 53-47, mostly along party lines but with three Republican votes.

Presiding was Vice President Kamala Harris, also the first Black woman to reach that high office.

Jackson will take her seat when Justice Stephen Breyer retires this summer, solidifying the liberal wing of the 6-3 conservative-dominated court. She joined Biden at the White House to watch the vote, embracing as it came in.

During the four days of Senate hearings last month, Jackson spoke of her parents’ struggles through racial segregation and said her “path was clearer” than theirs as a Black American after the enactment of civil rights laws. She attended Harvard University, served as a public defender, worked at a private law firm and was appointed as a member of the US Sentencing Commission.

She told senators she would apply the law “without fear or favour,” and pushed back on Republican attempts to portray her as too lenient on criminals she had sentenced.

Jackson will be just the third Black justice, after Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas, and the sixth woman. She will join three other women, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan Amy Coney Barrett – meaning that four of the nine justices will be women for the first time in history.

While Jackson won't change the balance, she will secure a legacy on the court for Biden and fulfil his 2020 campaign pledge to nominate the first Black female justice.

She won three Republican votes for her confirmation to the court from Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Mitt Romney of Utah, who said they found her to be enormously qualified for the job despite not always agreeing with her.

Jackson will be the second-youngest member of the court after Barrett once she is sworn in.