Black woman on US Supreme Court for first time

President Joe Biden and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson watch the US Senate vote on her nomination.

President Joe Biden and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson watch the US Senate vote on her nomination. Photo: Getty

The US Senate has confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, giving President Joe Biden a bipartisan endorsement for his effort to diversify the court.

Ms Jackson, a 51 year-old appeals court judge with nine years experience on the federal bench, was confirmed 53-47 early on Friday (Australian time), mostly along party lines but with three Republican votes.

Presiding was Vice President Kamala Harris, who is also the first black woman to reach that high office.

Ms Jackson, who will be the first black woman justice, will take her seat when Justice Stephen Breyer retires this northern summer, solidifying the liberal wing of the 6-3 conservative-dominated court.

She joined Mr Biden at the White House to watch the vote, with the pair embracing as it came in.

During the four days of Senate hearings last month, Ms 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.

She went to Harvard University, served as a public defender, worked at a private law firm and was appointed as a member of the US Sentencing Commission.

Ms Jackson told senators she would apply the law “without fear or favour,” and pushed back on Republican attempts to portray her as too lenient on criminals she had sentenced.

She will be just the third black justice, after Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas, and the sixth woman.

She will join three other women, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan Amy Coney Barrett – meaning that four of the nine justices will be women for the first time in history.

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