Ketanji Brown Jackson Becomes First Black Woman Supreme Court Justice


WASHINGTON — Ketanji Brown Jackson took the judicial oath just after noon on Thursday, becoming the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

Justice Jackson, 51, was confirmed in April, when the Senate voted 53 to 47 on her nomination. She will replace Justice Stephen Breyer, 83, who is stepping down with the conclusion of the court’s current term.

Justice Jackson took both a constitutional oath, administered by Chief Justice John Roberts, and a judicial oath, administered by Justice Breyer. The brief wearing in ceremony took place in the West Conference Room at the Supreme Court, before a small gathering of Judge Jackson’s family. Her husband, Patrick G. Jackson, held the Bible.

“I’m pleased to welcome Justice Jackson to the court and to our common calling,” Justice Roberts said and shook her hand. Justice Roberts said there would be a formal investiture in the fall, but the oaths would “allow her to undertake her duties, and she’s been anxious to get to them without any further delay.”

Justice Jackson made no statement.

Her rise to the court will not change it’s ideological balance — the newly expanded conservative majority will retain its 6-to-3 majority.

It comes at a time of deep polarization about the court, especially in the wake of its ruling striking down Roe v. Wade, ending the constitutional right to abortion, and at a time when the court has shown in recent rulings that it is deeply skeptical of the power of administrative agencies to address major issues facing the country.

Still, the Biden administration and Judge Jackson have underscored the historic import of her elevation to the nation’s highest court.

“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,” Judge Jackson said in April at a White House celebration following her confirmation. “But we’ve made it. We’ve made it. All of us.”

Justice Jackson was born in Washington, DC, and grew up in Miami. She graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, Justice Breyer’s alma mater, and clerked for him during the 1999-2000 Supreme Court term.

President Biden, during his 2020 campaign, promised that if elected he would appoint a Black woman to the Supreme Court.

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