Judge becomes first black woman to serve as justice
By CASEY HARPER
THE CENTER SQUARE SENIOR REPORTER
(The Center Square) — The U.S. Senate voted 53-47 Thursday to confirm President Joe Biden’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer.
Ms. Jackson, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, received bipartisan support. Democrats lauded Judge Jackson and emphasized the historic significance of her appointment as the first black female Supreme Court justice.
“This confirmation brings us one step closer to healing our nation, one step closer to a perfect union,” U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said.
Though Judge Jackson did garner several Republican votes, many Republicans raised concerns about her record, particularly on her handling of child pornography cases, saying she gave lenient sentences. Others argued she has a leftward bent on issues like gun rights and free speech.
“I believe that if confirmed, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will be the most liberal Supreme Court justice ever to serve on the Supreme Court,” U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said ahead of the vote. “What does that mean? She would be a vote to overturn landmark case after landmark case that protects Americans’ fundamental rights.”
Sen. Durbin responded to the leniency criticism by pointing to law enforcement support of Jackson.
“From our analysis of Judge Jackson’s record and some of her cases, we believe she has considered the facts and applied the law consistently and fairly on a range of issues,” Fraternal Order of Police National President Patrick Yoes said ahead of the vote. “There is little doubt that she has the temperament, intellect, legal experience and family background to have earned this appointment. We are reassured that, should she be confirmed, she would approach her future cases with an open mind and treat issues related to law enforcement fairly and justly. We wish her well as the confirmation process begins.”
Other critics said the confirmation process was rushed.
“Now we find ourselves in the midst of a needlessly rushed nomination process where liberal dark money groups are pressuring Senate Democrats to confirm their preferred Supreme Court nominee … many months in advance of when she could actually be seated on the court,” said Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who voted against Judge Jackson’s confirmation.
Judge Jackson sparked controversy during her confirmation hearings for her response to a question from Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. The senator asked Jackson to define what a woman is, but Jackson said she could not.
“The fact that you can’t give me a straight answer about something as fundamental as what a woman is underscores the dangers of the kind of progressive education that we are hearing about,” Sen. Blackburn said.
Polling taken before Judge Jackson’s confirmation proceedings found she had majority support among those surveyed.
“Fifty-eight percent of Americans say the Senate should vote in favor of Jackson serving on the Supreme Court,” Gallup said. “Only current Chief Justice John Roberts, at 59% in 2005, had a level of support on par with that for Jackson. Most other nominees had support in the low 50% range, with five below that mark.”
The sentiment toward Judge Jackson, though, is largely split along party lines.
“The new poll finds 88% of Democrats, 55% of independents and 31% of Republicans saying the Senate should vote to confirm Jackson,” Gallup said. “The majority of Republicans, 55%, are opposed.”
During her confirmation hearings, Judge Jackson praised the justice she will now replace.
“Justice Breyer not only gave me the greatest job that any young lawyer could ever hope to have,” Judge Jackson said in her testimony, referring to her time serving in a clerkship for Breyer. “But he also exemplifies what it means to be a Supreme Court Justice of the highest level of skill and integrity, civility, and grace. It is extremely humbling to be considered for Justice Breyer’s seat, and I know that I could never fill his shoes.”
Casey Harper works at The Center Square’s Washington, D.C., bureau.