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Ketanji Brown Jackson sworn in, becomes 1st Black woman on Supreme Court

Justice Stephen Breyer officially retired at noon Thursday. At the same time, Ketanji Brown Jackson was sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts.

WASHINGTON — Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51, officially made history Thursday as the first Black woman on the Supreme Court. 

She replaces 83-year-old Justice Stephen Breyer as the court wraps up its last rulings of the term. 

With Jackson, there will be four women on the Supreme Court for the next term, a first that has been championed by advocates pushing for more diversity at the top of the nation's judiciary system. 

During her swearing-in ceremony, Jackson took a constitutional oath administered by Chief Justice John Roberts and a judicial oath administered by Breyer. 

Breyer, who served for 28 years on the court, gave notice of his retirement Wednesday in a letter to President Joe Biden

"It has been my great honor to participate as a judge in the effort to maintain our Constitution and the Rule of Law," Breyer wrote.   

Jackson, nominated by President Joe Biden, was confirmed 53-47 by the Senate in April.

“With a full heart, I accept the solemn responsibility of supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States and administering justice without fear or favor, so help me God,” Jackson said in a statement issued by the court. “I am truly grateful to be part of the promise of our great Nation. I extend my sincerest thanks to all of my new colleagues for their warm and gracious welcome.”

Credit: AP
In this image from video, retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer administers the Judicial Oath to Ketanji Brown Jackson as her husband Patrick Jackson holds the Bible at the Supreme Court in Washington, Thursday, June 30, 2022. (Supreme Court via AP)

During the four-day Senate confirmation hearings, Jackson spoke of her parents’ struggles through racial segregation and said her “path was clearer” than theirs as a Black American after the enactment of civil rights laws. 

Jackson attended Harvard University, served as a public defender, worked at a private law firm and was appointed as a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

And she is not a completely fresh face to the Supreme Court. Jackson clerked for Breyer, who she will replace, after she graduated from Harvard in 1996. 

Jackson served eight years as a federal trial court judge, and was appointed by President Biden in June 2021 to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C.

She will be the first Supreme Court justice since Thurgood Marshall to have experience as a public defender, a quality analysts say will likely color her opinions with the court. 

The Supreme Court's conservative slant won't be changed as Jackson enters the high court. She is replacing a liberal judge who in his final term often found himself at the losing end of major decisions. 

In the biggest case of this term, the court ruled 5-4 to strike down Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed the right to abortion in the U.S.  

Credit: AP
The Supreme Court's newest justice adds to the court's diversity but also has much in common with her the other sitting justices. (AP Graphic)

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