On Thursday, Ketanji Brown Jackson was sworn in as a Supreme Court justice, making her the first black woman on the nation’s highest court.
Jackson, a former state attorney and judge of the Federal Court of Appeals, was sworn in during a small ceremony shortly after Judge Stephen Breyer’s resignation became official. Chief Justice John Roberts took the constitutional oath and Breyer took the judicial oath.
Jackson’s husband, Dr. Patrick Jackson, their two daughters and other Supreme Court justices were present, as well as retired Judge Anthony Kennedy, who left the court in 2018.
After the ceremony, Jackson said in a statement: “I wholeheartedly accept the solemn responsibility to uphold and defend the United States Constitution and administer justice without fear or mercy, so God help me. I am truly grateful to be part of the promise of our great nation. I express my sincere gratitude to all my new colleagues for the warm and kind welcome. “
She also credited Breyer, who hired her as a clerk in 1999, calling him “a personal friend and mentor of mine.”
Breyer said Jackson’s “hard work, integrity and intelligence earned her a seat on this court.”
“I am happy for my fellow judges,” he added. “They find a colleague who is sensitive, thoughtful and collegial. I’m happy for America. Ketanji will interpret the law wisely and fairly, helping that law work better for the American people he serves.”
Roberts said Jackson’s official entry ceremony would take place in the fall, but her oath on Thursday allowed her to begin work in court in the meantime.
In his statement, President Joe Biden thanked Breyer for his service and congratulated his candidate on becoming “Judge Jackson.”
“Her historic swearing-in today represents a profound step forward for our nation, for all the young black girls who now see themselves represented on our highest court, and for all of us as Americans,” Biden said, adding that the Supreme Court “just got a colleague with a world-class intellect, a temperament worthy of the justice the American people expect, and the strongest credentials imaginable.”
Jackson was confirmed by the Senate in a 53-47 vote in April. Vice President Kamala Harris, the first black American and the first person of South Asian descent to be elected to her position, presided over the confirmation vote.
Jackson watched the vote in the White House with Biden, who selected her to replace Breyer in February, fulfilling a campaign promise to choose a black woman if possible. At 51, she is young enough to hold a chair for decades.
“Our government has been too long, our courts have not been like America,” Biden said, nominating Jackson. “I think the time has come for us to have a court that reflects all the talent and greatness of our nation.”
At the time, Jackson said, “If I am fortunate enough to be confirmed as the next associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, I can only hope that my life and career, my love for this country and the Constitution, and my dedication to upholding the rule of law and sacred principles, on upon which this great nation was founded will inspire future generations of Americans.”
Jackson was born in Washington, DC and raised in Miami. Her father was a lawyer for the Miami-Dade School Board and her mother was a school administrator. She said her father, a former history teacher, inspired her to go into law. Jackson graduated with honors from Harvard Law School in 1996, and three years later clerked at Breyer.
After working for many years in private law firms, Jackson served as an attorney for the United States Sentencing Commission from 2003 to 2005, she said. Biography of the Supreme Court
Her nomination to the Supreme Court was supported by progressive groups, as well as former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, a Republican and a relative of Jackson. Her husband’s twin brother is married to Ryan’s sister-in-law. “Our politics may differ, but my praise for Ketanji’s intelligence, character and integrity is unequivocal,” Ryan said. tweeted after its nomination.