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Jackson Sworn in, Becomes 1st Black Woman on Supreme Court

07-01-2022
In this image from video provided by the Supreme Court, Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts administers the Constitutional Oath to Ketanji Brown Jackson. (Supreme Court via AP)
In this image from video provided by the Supreme Court, Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts administers the Constitutional Oath to Ketanji Brown Jackson. (Supreme Court via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Ketanji Brown Jackson was sworn in to the Supreme Court on Thursday, shattering a glass ceiling as the first Black woman on the nation’s highest court.

The 51-year-old Jackson is the court’s 116th justice, and she took the place of the justice she once worked for. Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement was effective at noon.

Moments later, joined by her family, Jackson recited the two oaths required of Supreme Court justices, one administered by Breyer and the other by Chief Justice John Roberts.

“With a full heart, I accept the solemn responsibility of supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States and administering justice without fear or favor, so help me God,” Jackson said in a statement issued by the court. “I am truly grateful to be part of the promise of our great Nation. I extend my sincerest thanks to all of my new colleagues for their warm and gracious welcome.”

Roberts welcomed Jackson “to the court and our common calling.” The ceremony was streamed live on the court's website. All the justices except for Neil Gorsuch attended the swearing-in, the court said. There was no immediate explanation for Gorsuch’s absence.

Jackson, a federal judge since 2013, is joining three other women — Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Amy Coney Barrett. It's the first time four women will serve together on the nine-member court.

“Her historic swearing in today represents a profound step forward for our nation, for all the young, Black girls who now see themselves reflected on our highest court, and for all of us as Americans,” President Joe Biden said in a statement after he returned from a trip to Europe. He also thanked Breyer “for his many years of exemplary service.”

Biden nominated Jackson in February, a month after Breyer, 83, announced he would retire at the end of the court's term, assuming his successor had been confirmed. Breyer's earlier-than-usual announcement and the condition he attached was a recognition of the Democrats' tenuous hold on the Senate in an era of hyper-partisanship, especially surrounding federal judgeships.

The Senate confirmed Jackson's nomination in early April, by a 53-47 mostly party-line vote that included support from three Republicans.

Jackson had been in a sort of judicial limbo since, remaining a judge on the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., but not hearing any cases. Biden elevated her to that court from the district judgeship to which she was appointed by President Barack Obama.

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