Ketanji Brown Jackson has been sworn in to the Supreme Court as the first black woman to break the glass ceiling on the nation’s Supreme Court.
Jackson, 51, is the court’s 116th justice and on Thursday replaced the justice she once served for. Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement took effect at noon.
Moments later, joined by his family, Jackson recited two oaths required of Supreme Court justices, one administered by Breyer and the other by Chief Justice John Roberts.
“With all my heart, I accept a solemn responsibility to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and to do justice without fear or favor, so God help me,” Jackson said in a statement issued by the court. “I am truly grateful to be a part of the promise of our great nation. I wholeheartedly thank all our new colleagues for their warm welcome.” Roberts welcomed Jackson “to the court and to our common calling”. The ceremony was broadcast live on the court’s website.
Jackson, a federal judge since 2013, is joining three other women, Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Amy Connie Barrett – the first time four women will work together on a nine-member court.
After Biden nominated Jackson in February, Breyer, 83, announced he would retire at the end of the court’s term, assuming his successor has been confirmed. Breyer’s earlier declaration and the stipulation he attached were a recognition of the Democrats’ weak grip on the Senate in an era of hyper-participation, particularly around federal judgeship.
The Senate confirmed Jackson’s nomination in early April by a 53-47 majority party-line vote, which included the support of three Republicans.
Jackson had been in a sort of judicial limbo since serving as a judge on the federal appeals court in Washington, DC, but not hearing any cases. Biden promoted her from district judgeship to the court where she was appointed by President Barack Obama.
Jackson would be able to begin work immediately, but the court would have just completed most of his work by the fall, except for the occasional emergency appeals. That would give him time to settle and familiarize himself with the nearly two dozen cases the court has already agreed to hear hundreds of appeals starting in October, with the summer piling up.
The court on Thursday issued the final opinion after a critical and scathing word in which the right to abortion in Row v. Wade’s guarantee was reversed. One of Thursday’s decisions limited how the Environmental Protection Agency can use the country’s main air pollution law to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, a blow to the fight against climate change.