Historic Confirmation to US Supreme Court Is Celebrated

Newly confirmed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson spoke about her historic appointment Friday afternoon during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House.  


“We have come a long way toward protecting our union. In my family, it took just one generation to go from segregation to the Supreme Court of the United States,” said Jackson, who is the first Black woman to become one of the nine justices of the highest court in the land and the third Black justice in Supreme Court history.   


Jackson noted the long road it took to get an African American woman in the esteemed 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,” she said amid applause. “But we’ve made it. We’ve made it. All of us. All of us.” 


Visibly emotional, Jackson quoted Black American poet Maya Angelou in her speech: “Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave.”

Tough confirmation process


President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris accompanied Jackson to celebrate her ascent to the court, a day after the Senate voted 53 to 47 to confirm her. Biden, who had campaigned on nominating a Black woman to the Supreme Court, noted her difficult confirmation process that was supported by only a handful of Republicans. 


“I knew the person I nominated would be put through a painful and difficult confirmation process,” Biden said. “But I have to tell you, what Judge Jackson was put through was well beyond that. It was verbal abuse. The anger, the constant interruptions, the most vile, baseless assertions and accusations.” 


During the confirmation process, some Republican lawmakers tried to portray Jackson as lenient on felons who possessed images of child pornography.  


Only three Republican senators — Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney — voted to approve the 51-year-old judge. 


Marjorie Taylor Greene, an often-controversial member of the far-right faction of the Republican Party in the House of Representatives, condemned her colleagues who supported Jackson as “pro-pedophile.”

Biden said that throughout these attacks Jackson remained poised, composed, patient and restrained. “Judge, you are the very definition of what we Irish refer to as dignity. You have enormous dignity,” Biden said to applause for the judge. 


Harris, the first Black woman to hold her job, also spoke at the White House celebration, telling Jackson that she would “inspire generations of leaders. They will watch your confirmation hearings and read your decisions.”

The vice president presided over the historic moment on Thursday, even though Democrats did not need her tie-breaking vote in the evenly divided Senate to confirm Jackson.

In a four-day hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, Democrats praised Jackson for her depth of experience, serving as a judge for nearly 10 years at the federal and appellate levels, and clerking for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, whom Biden nominated her to replace.  


“She is a once-in-a-generation legal talent,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin said ahead of her confirmation vote Thursday.  

“With Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation to the highest court in the land, we are not only making history, we are carrying on a great American tradition — elevating one of our nation’s best and brightest legal minds to an honored position of service. There’s no one more deserving of this high honor,” said Durbin. “As we’ve learned over the past month, she is the best of us. She has devoted her life to serving our country. She’s done so at every level of the federal judiciary, and at every turn, she’s distinguished herself.”  


Jackson is also the first former public defender to serve on the Supreme Court. Her background representing defendants and later sentencing child pornographers drew complaints from Senate Republicans who said she was soft on crime.  


“On average nationally, every federal district judge sentences those convicted of distribution of child pornography to 135 months, which is 75 months more than the mandatory minimum sentence. Judge Jackson, on average, sentenced those same defendants to just 11.9 months more than the mandatory minimum sentence. This is a disturbing pattern,” Republican Senator Ted Cruz told reporters Thursday ahead of Jackson’s confirmation.  

During the confirmation hearings for Jackson, witnesses from the American Bar Association, a professional association of lawyers and law students that sets standards for law schools, rejected the allegations that she was “soft on crime.”  


Jackson’s seating does not alter the court’s 6-3 conservative-dominated balance. But Republicans expressed concern about voting for a justice they said would be further to the left of Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, who were both nominated by Democratic presidents.  


“Her judicial record is full of cases where Judge Jackson ruled like a policymaker implementing personal biases instead of a judge following text where it led,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor Thursday.  

For Democrats and the Biden White House, the lifetime appointment of Jackson is a victory in what has been an often-difficult year for them.  


“A joyous, momentous, groundbreaking day,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor Thursday. “This milestone should have happened generations ago, but we are always trotting on a path toward a more perfect union. Nevertheless, America today is taking a giant step towards making our union more perfect.”  


U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told VOA, “I’m emotional about that, as well. I’m proud. I am. It’s taken too long for this to happen. But it’s a historic moment, and it’s one that I am so proud to be here to witness. And I look forward to what she will be able to accomplish on the court.”  


Jackson joins three other female justices on the court — Sotomayor, Kagan and Amy Coney Barrett — marking the first time the court has had four women at the same time.   


VOA U.N. Correspondent Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.