Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmed as first Black woman on U.S Supreme Court

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The 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 and giving US President Joe Biden a bipartisan endorsement for his effort to diversify the court.

Jackson, a 51-year-old appeals court judge with nine years of experience on the federal bench, was confirmed 53-47, mostly along party lines but with three Republican votes. Presiding was US Vice President Kamala Harris, also the first Black woman to reach that high office.

“This is a wonderful day, a joyous day, an inspiring day — for the Senate, for the Supreme Court, and for the United States of America,” exulted Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. When Harris called the final tally, the chamber erupted in cheers that echoed beyond its doors.

The Senate’s upper galleries were almost full for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic two years ago.

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 favor,” 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.

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