Ketanji Brown Jackson was sworn as an associate justice of the Supreme Court on Thursday, officially taking her place in history as the first Black woman to serve on the nation’s highest court.
“We’re here today to administer the oaths of office to Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to become an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States,” Chief Justice John Roberts said at the start of the ceremony, acknowledging the oaths will allow Jackson to begin her work “without any further delay.”
In a brief ceremony at the Supreme Court that was broadcast live, Jackson first took the constitutional oath, administered by Roberts, followed by the judicial oath, administered by now-retired Justice Stephen Breyer. Breyer’s retirement from the high court was made official at noon on Thursday, paving the way for Jackson, his former clerk, to fill his seat.
“On behalf of all of the members of the court, I am pleased to welcome Justice Jackson to the court and to our common calling,” Roberts said, as applause broke out.
Breyer announced in January his plans to step down at the end of the term, giving President Biden his first opportunity to make his mark on the high court. Jackson’s addition will not change the ideological makeup of the court, which is firmly controlled by the six-justice conservative majority.
Jackson, a judge on the federal appeals court in Washington, was confirmed by the Senate in a bipartisan vote in April.
Although three Republican senators eventually joined all 50 Democrats in voting to approve Jackson’s nomination, her confirmation hearings were not without controversy, as some GOP senators tried to paint her as a soft-on-crime activist judge who would legislate from the bench.
Their criticisms, which took aim at Jackson’s sentencing record in child pornography cases as a federal trial court judge, failed to derail efforts from the White House and Democratic Senate leaders to drum up bipartisan support for Jackson’s nomination, piercing the partisan polarization of recent Supreme Court confirmation fights.
In a letter on Wednesday, Breyer told Mr. Biden that his retirement would take effect at noon Thursday to coincide with Jackson’s swearing in.