Ketanji Brown Jackson was sworn in at the Supreme Court on Thursday, shattering a glass ceiling as the first black woman to serve on the nation’s highest court.
Jackson, 51, is the court’s 116th judge and she took the place of the judge she once worked for. Judge Stephen Breyer’s retirement took effect at noon.
Moments later, Jackson, accompanied by her family, recited the two oaths required by Supreme Court justices, one administered by Breyer and the other by Chief Justice John Roberts.
“With all my heart I accept the solemn responsibility to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and to administer justice without fear or favour, so help me God,” Jackson said in a court statement. “I am truly grateful to be a part of the promise of our great nation. I would like to thank all my new colleagues for their warm and gracious welcome.”
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Roberts welcomed Jackson “to the court and our common calling.” The ceremony was streamed live on the court’s website.
Jackson, a federal judge since 2013, joins three other women, Judges Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Amy Coney Barrett — the first time four women have served on the nine-member court together.
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Biden nominated Jackson in February, a month after Breyer, 83, announced he would retire at the end of the term, assuming his successor was confirmed. Breyer’s earlier-than-usual announcement and the condition he attached to it was an acknowledgment of the Democrats’ weak hold on the Senate in an era of hyper-partisanship, especially around federal judges.
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The Senate confirmed Jackson’s nomination in early April, with a 53-47 party line majority, supported by three Republicans.
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Since then, Jackson has found himself in some sort of legal uncertainty and remained a judge on the federal appeals court in Washington, DC, but heard no cases. Biden elevated her to that court from the district judge she had been appointed to by President Barack Obama.
Jackson will be able to start work immediately, but the court will have just completed most of his work until the fall, barring the occasional necessities. That gives her time to settle in and familiarize herself with the roughly two dozen cases the court has already heard in October, as well as hundreds of appeals that will pile up over the summer.
The court issued final judgments earlier Thursday after a momentous and rancorous term, including overturning Roe v. Wade’s guarantee of the right to abortion. One of Thursday’s decisions narrowed down how the Environmental Protection Agency can use the country’s key anti-air pollution bill to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, a blow to the fight against climate change.
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