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Senate Confirms Ketanji Brown Jackson as First Black Woman Supreme Court Justice

Jackson, a former public defender, has been championed by progressive advocates and lawmakers.

Supreme Court Nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson is pictured on Capitol Hill, on April 5, 2022, in Washington, D.C.

The Senate has confirmed Kentanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, making her the first Black woman Supreme Court justice in history.

Senators voted 53 to 47 to confirm Jackson on Thursday. Three Republicans joined all Democratic senators in voting “yes.” Jackson will be replacing Justice Stephen Breyer, who announced his retirement earlier this year. She is expected to be sworn in sometime mid-summer.

Jackson was the most progressive person being considered for the job by President Joe Biden, who had pledged to nominate a Black woman to the High Court. Jackson, a former public defender, will be the only person on the Supreme Court who has represented criminal defendants, including people detained in Guantánamo Bay. The last justice with experience as a public defender was Thurgood Marshall, who retired in 1991.

As a D.C. Circuit Court judge, Jackson made rulings favoring unions, including one in 2018, when she rejected executive orders crafted by former President Donald Trump to limit federal workers’ ability to collectively bargain.

With several confirmation hearings for other federal judgeships under her belt, most recently for her role as a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, she will be the most highly vetted modern Supreme Court justice.

Progressive lawmakers celebrated Jackson’s confirmation.

“Watch your step, concrete ceiling just shattered,” wrote Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Massachusetts). “Congratulations to the Honorable SUPREME. COURT. JUSTICE. Ketanji Brown Jackson. Now read that again.”

Jackson also had the support of many civil rights, climate and progressive groups, as well as labor unions.

“Today is an important step forward in our nation’s everlasting march to become that more perfect union,” said End Citizens United executive director Tiffany Muller in a statement. “Just as she has done throughout her entire career, Justice Jackson will fight to protect all Americans, not just wealthy corporations and the rich and powerful elite. From protecting the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, to reproductive rights, to workers’ rights, to the freedom to vote, Justice Jackson will ensure all Americans’ voices are heard and their rights are protected.”

During her confirmation hearing, Jackson faced a slew of baseless attacks from far right lawmakers, who used the hearing to bring up their bigoted grievances about racial justice and LGBTQ people.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) berated Jackson seemingly just for being Black, framing her as a proponent of the right’s fabricated version of movements for racial justice, while Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) demanded that Jackson define what a woman is in a series of questions aimed at attacking trans people.

Republicans have also said that if they had control of the Senate, Jackson never would have gotten a hearing at all. The GOP has thoroughly manipulated the Supreme Court confirmation process, stuffing the Court with conservative justices while stonewalling Democratic nominations, as they did in 2016 under President Barack Obama.

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