Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is anticipated to be confirmed to the Supreme Court by the Senate today. Jackson will be the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States when she is sworn in this summer. Jackson’s confirmation is expected to receive votes from all 50 Senate Democrats, as well as the two independents who are part of their caucus. At least three Republicans will join them: Utah Senator Mitt Romney, Maine Senator Susan Collins, and Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski.
On Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-11 along party lines to send Jackson’s nomination to the entire Senate for a vote. Expecting a deadlock, Democrats went ahead and took a procedural step to put the nominee up for a vote before the full Senate. Republicans slammed Jackson as a partisan during her appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, focusing on culture war issues rather than questions about her competence.
Several Republicans, including Tennessee’s Marsha Blackburn and Missouri’s Josh Hawley, have accused the judge of being too lenient with child sexual predators. According to fact-checkers, the assertions are false, and Jackson’s sentencing decisions were consistent with those of her peers on the federal bench. Jackson will be the Supreme Court’s first Black female justice. President Biden made a significant campaign pledge to name the first Black woman to the Supreme Court, and Jackson’s confirmation fulfills that commitment.
Jackson, 51, worked as a federal trial court judge for eight years before being confirmed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in June. Jackson worked as a public defender before becoming a judge. If confirmed, Jackson will be the first Supreme Court justice to represent indigent criminal defendants since Thurgood Marshall.
She went on to clerk for Justice Stephen Breyer after graduating from Harvard Law School in 1996. When Breyer formally retires this summer, she will take his seat on the Supreme Court. Breyer, 83, was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1994 by President Bill Clinton to replace retiring Justice Harry Blackmun. Despite intellectual and ideological disputes concerning the Constitution, Justice Breyer became known for his decades-long endeavor to develop consensus among the justices, in contrast to the current image of the court as yet another venue for partisan political and cultural conflict.
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Breyer wrote a book last year arguing that the American public should continue to trust the Supreme Court as an apolitical institution separate from the other arms of government. “I’m concerned if the general public believes the Supreme Court justices are minor-league politicians,” Breyer told Nina Totenberg of NPR. “Because they believe, “Why don’t we want senior-varsity politicians?” a slew of unpleasant events will unfold. Why do we need politicians who are freshmen in high school? People’s minds can be filled with many negative views about the institution.”
Breyer’s vision of the Supreme Court will be put to the test during Jackson’s tenure on the court, as the court’s conservative majority decides on cases involving some of the country’s most contentious social and political issues, such as abortion access and the role of race in college admissions.