For the first time in its more than 200-year history, the US finally has a Black woman Supreme Court justice.
All rise for Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.
With her right hand in the air, the 51-year-old was officially sworn in as the nation’s 116th justice at a ceremony in Washington, DC, on Thursday.
“I am pleased to welcome Justice Jackson to the court and to our common calling,” Chief Justice John Roberts said following the brief ceremony.
She replaced Justice Stephen Breyer, who notified President Joe Biden that his retirement would officially commence at noon once the court had released its final opinions for this term. Breyer, 83, had first announced his intention to retire in January.
After Jackson was confirmed by the Senate as his successor in April, she acknowledged the historic moment, paying tribute to those who had come before her.
“The path was cleared for me so that I might rise to this occasion,” she said, “and, in the poetic words of Dr. Maya Angelou, I do so now while bringing the gifts my ancestors gave: I am the dream and the hope of the slave."
As part of Thursday’s ceremony, Jackson took the two oaths required of Supreme Court justices: one in support of the Constitution and a second that she would rule impartially. The former was administered by Roberts, while the latter was administered by Breyer.
Her husband and two daughters were present for the ceremony at the Supreme Court.
Jackson is expected to vote closely with the liberals on the court: Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
She has ascended to the court at a critical time for both the institution and the country.
In just this term, the court’s arch-conservative supermajority has spurned a clear majority of Americans with rulings on guns and abortion — the latter overturning the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade that had stood for almost half a century, upending reproductive rights across the country.
Justice Clarence Thomas has indicated he wants to go further and overturn rulings on contraception, as well as protections for same-sex sexual activity and marriage equality.
It’s not hyperbolic to suggest the court may not be done remaking American democracy as we know it. On Thursday, the justices said they would hear an appeal in a case brought by Republicans in North Carolina that could potentially allow state legislatures to set rules for federal elections even if their hyper-partisan gerrymandering violates their state constitutions.
The court itself also appears to be ripe with division, distrust, and intrigue following the unprecedented leaking in May of the draft opinion to overturn Roe. Roberts has ordered an investigation into the leak, calling it a “betrayal of the confidences of the Court” and “a singular and egregious breach of that trust.”