Ketanji Brown Jackson was sworn in yesterday as a US Supreme Court justice, making history as the first black woman on the nation’s top judicial body, at a time when its conservative majority has been flexing its muscles in major rulings.
Ms Jackson (51) joins the liberal bloc of a court with a 6-3 conservative majority. Her swearing in as President Joe Biden’s replacement for retiring liberal Justice Stephen Breyer came six days after the court overturned the 1973 Roe v Wade landmark case that legalised abortion nationwide. Justice Breyer, at 83 the court’s oldest member, officially retired on Thursday.
“With a full heart, I accept the solemn responsibility of supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States and administering justice without fear or favour,” Ms Jackson said in a statement.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll this week found that a majority of Americans – 57pc – hold a negative view of the court following the abortion ruling, a significant shift from earlier in the month when a narrow majority held a positive view.
Ms Jackson is the 116th justice, sixth woman and third black person to serve on the Supreme Court since its 1789 founding.
“I am glad for America,” Mr Breyer said in a statement. “Ketanji will interpret the law wisely and fairly, helping that law to work better for the American people, whom it serves.”
Mr Biden appointed Ms Jackson last year to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit after she spent eight years as a federal district judge.
Like the three conservative justices appointed by Donald Trump, Ms Jackson is young enough to serve for decades in the lifetime job.
“I am pleased to welcome Justice Jackson to the court and to our common calling,” Chief Justice John Roberts said at the ceremony.
The Senate confirmed Ms Jackson on a 53-47 vote on April 7, with three Republicans joining the Democrats in support of her.
Ms Jackson’s appointment does not shift the court’s ideological balance.
“It has taken 232 years and 115 prior appointments for a black woman to be selected to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States,” Ms Jackson said at an event celebrating her confirmation. “But we’ve made it.”