Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has been confirmed to ascend to the highest court in the land, officially making history as the first Black woman to become a Supreme Court justice.
The U.S. Senate voted 53-47 on Thursday, April 7, to confirm Jackson, with three Republican senators joining all Senate Democrats in Jackson’s favor. She won’t be sworn in until Justice Stephen Breyer retires, which is slated to be sometime this summer, according to a CNN report.
Jackson watched the Senate confirmation vote with President Joe Biden from the White House. Images of Jackson and Biden holding hands and hugging in front of a TV screen are circulating online.
“On this vote, the yeas are 53, the nays are 47 and this nomination is confirmed,” U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said before the Senate floor broke out in applause.
Many Republican senators walked out at that point, yet the three who crossed party lines and voted for Jackson – Sensators Mitt Romney, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski – remained.
“This is one of the great moments in American history,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said. “Today we are taking a giant, bold and important step in fulfilling our country’s founding promise.”
Jackson’s confirmation does fulfill a promise – one made by Biden during his campaign to appoint a Black woman to the SCOTUS if a vacancy became available.
The Miami-raised Jackson was an early frontrunner due to her extensive legal experience and impressive career trajectory.
She faced days of contentious confirmation hearings with attacks from Republicans ranging from accusations that she was soft on crime and lenient on child sexual offenders to having a secret agenda and being a proponent of critical race theory (CRT).
Jackson’s stance on CRT has not been confirmed or denied, nor does it have anything to do with her ability to do her job – something Jackson noted during the confirmation hearings.
“It [CRT] doesn’t come up in my work as it’s never something that I have studied or relied on, and it wouldn’t be something that I would rely on if I was on the Supreme Court,” Jackson said when asked about CRT.
Some of the aforementioned accusations from Republicans have been debunked by legal scholars who weighed in on how they think Jackson may behave as a Supreme Court justice. Here are three clues for how some think Jackson may rule on the bench with a lifetime appointment.
1. Ketanji Brown Jackson has been described as a ‘diligent and exceptionally thorough’ judge.
One article in the New York Times described Jackson’s opinions during her eight years spent as a trial judge at the Federal District Court in Washington. “Those opinions are diligent and exceptionally thorough, exhibiting a sure command of both the facts before her and the relevant legal materials,” the Times said.
When elevated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Jackson continued to be thoughtful and firm in the decisions she wrote, the report states.
During her eight months on the bench before her SCOTUS nomination, Jackson ruled on several cases, including two for which she wrote the majority opinion. They included whether it was appropriate for a higher court to vacate the opinion of a lower court and whether former President Donald Trump could exercise executive privilege to prevent the release of records from the White House concerning the Jan. 6 insurrection.
“The dispute-and-decision bell cannot be unrung — there was a dispute and someone was declared the winner,” Jackson wrote on the case involving vacating lower courts’ opinions. “Written opinions are the most accurate historical record of what the supervising court thought of those events. And in a common law system of case-by-case adjudication, that history need not, and should not, be cavalierly discarded.”
In a separate case involving a Trump advisor who the Trump administration said had “absolute immunity” from testifying, Jackson wrote: “Presidents are not kings. They do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control.”
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2. Experts say Jackson’s legal philosophy shouldn’t be viewed as fully discernable based on her opinions.
Though some have described Jackson’s legal philosophy as “liberal-leaning,” Vanderbilt University law professor Tracey E. George cautioned against defining a judge’s political leanings based on their decisions in court.
“The idea that you could look to those things to determine if someone is liberal or conservative — that’s just not been my experience,” George told the Times.
3. Jackson is methodical in her rulings, leaning towards what benefits long-term justice
There was a narrative floating around that Jackson voted against Black workers in one of her cases, but a Washington Post op-ed written by Harvard University Professor Kenneth W. Mack and former Judge Andre M. Davis said, “it’s not so simple.”
According to Mack and Davis, Jackson’s ruling was likely “protecting one group of Black Lockheed employees from having their interests sacrificed for those of another group of Black employees.”
She ruled “that the proposed settlement was not fair, reasonable and adequate because many Black employees would be abandoning potential discrimination claims without knowing what they were giving up and what monetary compensation or other relief they were likely to get in return,” Mack and Davis wrote.
“Every one of Lockheed’s Black employees would have had to give up all rights to sue the company for any kind of past discrimination to obtain a settlement in this one particular case, which challenged one particular employment practice of the company. Jackson believed that trade-off was unfair,” the duo continued.
Whether one agrees with Jackson’s judicial decisions or not, no one has questioned her qualifications to be a Supreme Court justice.
On Twitter, some people celebrated Jackson’s confirmation. Others were more skeptical about whether or not she’d make a positive impact.
Jackson, Biden, and Harris are slated to make remarks on Friday.
PHOTO: Ketanji Brown testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on pending judicial nominations, April 28, 2021 on Capitol Hill. (Tom Williams/Pool via AP, File)