Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate to fill the federal appeals court seat vacated by Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Three Republicans voted for Jackson — senators Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins and Lindsey Graham, respectively of Alaska, Maine and South Carolina — making the vote 53-44, with several Republicans not taking part.
Jackson spent eight years on the bench as a federal trial court judge, where she issued a variety of notable rulings, including several against former President Donald Trump‘s administration, judgments that caused Republicans to question her impartiality. “It doesn’t make a difference whether or not the argument is coming from a death row inmate or the president of the United States,” she told them. “I’m not injecting my personal views.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called Jackson an “outstanding, trailblazing nominee” with “all the qualities of a model jurist.” He noted that her nomination represented the Democrats’ efforts to “quickly close the gap” of under-representation of women of color on the federal bench.
Jackson was once a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who is 82 years old and the eldest liberal on the court. Progressives are calling on him to step down to allow for Democrats to add another liberal justice to the court before 2024.
With President Joe Biden now in the White House, a Democratic House and slim Senate voting majority (with Vice President Kamala Harris as tiebreaker), this is the clearest window Dems have in leveling out the federal courts. Trump appointed more than 200 conservative federal judges to lifetime appointments and three Supreme Court justices, including Amy Coney Barrett, who was rushed through the nomination process just days before the 2020 presidential election.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has pledged to once again block the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice in 2024 if Republicans are in charge of the Senate. “I don’t think either party, if it controlled [the Senate] if it were different from the president, would confirm a Supreme Court nominee in the middle of an election [year],” he said.
Jackson graduated from Harvard University and Harvard Law and was a clerk to three judges. She also worked as a federal public defender and served on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, where she helped ensure that the reduction for drug-related offense penalties applied retroactively.
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