Ketanji Brown Jackson - live: First Black woman sworn in as Supreme Court justice after Stephen Breyer retires

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Ketanji Brown Jackson, Joe Biden’s first Supreme Court appointee, has been sworn in with a short oath ceremony. She is the first Black woman to sit on the court, and replaces Stephen Breyer joining the current court’s two other liberals, Barack Obama appointees Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.

Ms Brown Jackson’s confirmation was never in serious doubt thanks to the Democrats’ control of both the White House and the Senate, but her hearings nonetheless saw several Republicans on the Judiciary Committee attack her for her supposed radicalism and alleged history of giving unduly lenient sentences to child sex abusers.

She also endured questions related to the GOP’s current social concerns, including alleged teaching of critical race theory and arguments over sex and gender.

Nonetheless, she was ultimately confirmed with the support of all 50 Senate Democrats and three Republicans.

Justice Breyer is bowing out after 28 years on the court. On Thursday morning he gave his opinion on the final two cases of the 2021/22 session. The conservative majority court decided to gut the federal government’s ability to counter the climate crisis, but will allow the Biden administration to end the Trump-era “remain in Mexico” asylum policy.

Key points

  • Supreme Court to get first Black woman justice

  • Clinton nominee Breyer retires after nearly 30 years

  • Court remains split 6-3 in favour of conservatives

Ketanji Brown Jackson sworn in as US Supreme Court justice

17:14 , Oliver O'Connell

Ketanji Brown Jackson has been sworn in as the 116th justice on the US Supreme Court, the first Black woman and first former public defender to join the nine-member panel.

More follows...

Ketanji Brown Jackson sworn in as US Supreme Court justice

17:10 , Oliver O'Connell

After a short ceremony, Ketanji Brown Jackson becomes the first Black woman to serve on the US Supreme Court as its 116th justice.

The oath ceremony was streamed live by the court and attended by the new justice’s immediate family, including her husband, who held the bible on which she was sworn in.

Oath ceremony underway

17:05 , Oliver O'Connell

The swearing-in ceremony is beginning with Chief Justice John Roberts administering the oath as determined by the Constitution.

Justice Stephen Breyer will administer the judicial oath.

SCOTUS rejects Covid-19 shot mandate case from New York

16:48 , Oliver O'Connell

The Supreme Court declined on Thursday to take up a case involving a Covid-19 vaccine requirement for health care workers in New York that does not offer an exemption for religious reasons.

The court’s action follows a decision in December in which the justices declined an emergency request to halt the requirement. At the time, doctors, nurses, and other medical workers said they were being forced to choose between their jobs and religious beliefs.

Three conservative justices — Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito — dissented earlier and did so again Thursday.

New York is one of three states, along with Maine and Rhode Island, that do not accommodate health care workers who object to the vaccine on religious grounds.

The court had previously turned away health care workers in Maine, who filed a similar challenge, with the same three justices in dissent.


ICYMI: Biden blasts GOP’s ‘verbal abuse’ during Ketanji Brown Jackson hearings

16:40 , Oliver O'Connell

In April, President Joe Biden blasted Republican attacks against Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson at her confirmation hearings during a celebration of her ascent to the Supreme Court.

The Independent’s Washington political team reported on the historic event at the time.

Biden blasts ‘verbal abuse’ from Republicans during Ketanji Brown Jackson hearings

SCOTUS to review powers of state legislatures in federal elections

16:30 , Oliver O'Connell

The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear an appeal from North Carolina Republicans that could drastically limit state court authority over congressional redistricting, as well as elections for Congress and the presidency.

The justices will consider whether state courts, finding violations of their state constitutions, can order changes to federal elections and the once-a-decade redrawing of congressional districts.

The case probably will be argued in the autumn when Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson joins the bench for her first term.

The appeal challenges a state court ruling throwing out the congressional districts drawn by North Carolina’s General Assembly that made GOP candidates likely victors in 10 of the state’s 14 congressional districts.

The Supreme Court has never invoked what is known as the independent state legislature doctrine, but four of the court’s conservative justices have expressed interest in taking on the subject.

One of them, Justice Clarence Thomas, was among three justices who advanced it in the Bush v Gore case that settled the 2000 presidential election.

It only takes four of the nine justices to agree to hear a case. A majority of five is needed for an eventual decision.

The issue has arisen repeatedly in cases from North Carolina and Pennsylvania, where Democratic majorities on the states’ highest courts have invoked voting protections in their state constitutions to frustrate the plans of Republican-dominated legislatures.


ICYMI: Justice Stephen Breyer retires

16:26 , Oliver O'Connell

After announcing his retirement earlier this year, US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer will formally end his tenure on the nation’s high court today at noon.

Read Justice Breyer’s retirement letter here.

Alex Woodward reports:

Stephen Breyer will retire this week, paving way for Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson

Watch: ‘It has taken 232 years for a Black female appointment’

16:09 , Oliver O'Connell

‘It has taken 232 years for a Black female appointment’, says Justice Jackson

Is Judge Jackson Joe Biden’s first and last addition to the Supreme Court?

15:52 , Oliver O'Connell

Control of Congress would decide if President Joe Biden were able to get another nomination passed should one be required.

Analysis: Has Joe Biden made his first – and last – addition to the Supreme Court

Judicial pas de deux set for noon

15:34 , Oliver O'Connell

With this term’s final opinions delivered, in just under ninety minutes, and nearly three months after she won confirmation to the Supreme Court, Ketanji Brown Jackson will officially become a justice.

Judge Jackson, 51, will be sworn as the court’s 116th justice just as the man she is replacing, Justice Stephen Breyer, retires.

The judicial pas de deux is set to take place at noon, the moment Justice Breyer said in a letter to President Joe Biden on Wednesday that his retirement will take effect after nearly 28 years on the nation’s highest court.

In a ceremony the court said it will stream live, Judge Jackson will recite two oaths required of Supreme Court justices, one administered by outgoing Justice Breyer and the other by Chief Justice John Roberts.

Ms Jackson, a federal judge since 2013, will be the first Black woman to serve as a justice. She will be joining three women, Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Amy Coney Barrett — the first time four women will serve together on the nine-member court.


SCOTUS allows Biden to end Trump’s ‘remain in Mexico’ asylum policy

15:18 , Oliver O'Connell

In its final opinion of the 2021/22 term, the Supreme Court allows the Biden administration to end the controversial Trump-era asylum policy known as “remain in Mexico.”

Republican-led states argued that President Joe Biden was obliged to keep the policy, but the court says in a 5-4 ruling that the administration can end it.

Chief Justice John Roberts was joined in the decision by conservative justice Brett Kavanaugh and the three liberal justices, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor.

SCOTUS delivers devastating blow to US climate action

15:07 , Oliver O'Connell

In the first of the two opinions to be published today, the US Supreme Court has delivered a severe blow to the federal government’s ability to tackle the climate crisis.

Hours before breaking for summer recess, the justices announced a 6-3 ruling from its conservative majority in favour of the plaintiffs in the case, West Virginia v EPA.

The Independent’s US climate desk reports on the decision:

Supreme Court delivers devastating blow to US climate action

Watch: Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmed as first Black woman on Supreme Court

14:59 , Oliver O'Connell

Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmed as first Black woman Supreme Court justice

Why Cory Booker came to Ketanji Brown Jackson’s defence

14:50 , Andrew Naughtie

One of the most conspicuous Democratic senators at Ms Brown Jackson’s hearings was Cory Booker of New Jersey, one of his chamber’s only Black members. He not only offered the nominee closing remarks that moved her to tears, but also defended her vociferously against the aggressive questioning from some of his right-wing colleagues.

“Why didn’t you vote against every one of those Republican judges that was not following the guidelines, as most don’t?” he asked in response to Josh Hawley, who led the charge against Ms Jackson on the misleading claim that she was soft on child abusers.

“You could try to create a straw man here but it does not hold. And it’s just frustrating to me to listen to people trying to create a caricature of a human being whose family is in law enforcement, who is a parent and who is well within the norm on these cases.”

Mr Booker explained his thinking to The Independent shortly afterwards.

Cory Booker tells The Independent why he defended Ketanji Brown Jackson

Final opinion day of 2021/22

14:47 , Oliver O'Connell

Today at the Supreme Court it is also the final opinion day of the 2021-22 term.

Two cases remain: one on the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to combat climate change; and the other on the future of the “remain in Mexico” asylum policy.

Opinions will be published at 10 am ET.


Biden calls Supreme Court’s abortion ruling ‘outrageous’ and now supports changing Senate filibuster

14:32 , Oliver O'Connell

As we await the release of the court’s final opinions of this session and the swearing-in of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Joe Biden has been speaking at the Nato conference in Madrid and was asked about a recent poll saying that 85 per cent of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction.

Giving his answer, the president specifically highlighted the current court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade.

Andrew Feinberg reports on his remarks.

Biden says he now supports filibuster exception for abortion rights

Watch Ketanji Brown Jackson’s speech celebrating confirmation

14:20 , Andrew Naughtie

When her confirmation was sealed by the US Senate in April, Ketanji Brown Jackson appeared alongside Joe Biden and Kamala Harris outside the White House to deliver a celebratory speech.

“It has taken 232 years and 115 prior appointments for a Black woman to be selected to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States,” she said. “But we’ve made it.”

“The path was cleared for me so that I might rise to the 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.’”

Here’s Eric Garcia‘s report.

Ketanji Brown Jackson delivers speech marking historic confirmation to Supreme Court

Read Stephen Breyer’s retirement letter

13:50 , Andrew Naughtie

Liberal justice Stephen Breyer announced earlier this year that he would retire at the end of the current Supreme Court term, providing relief to concerned liberals who worried his seat might become vacant at a time when Republicans controlled either the White House, the Senate or both.

In his formal retirement letter to Joe Biden, which he sent yesterday, Mr Breyer wrote that “it has been my great honour to participate as a judge in the effort to maintain our Constitution and the Rule of Law”.

You can read the letter here.

Look back: The worst questions from KBJ’s nomination hearings

13:20 , Andrew Naughtie

With Ms Jackson’s confirmation never in serious jeopardy thanks to the makeup of the Senate, the Judiciary Committee’s more performative Republicans set about grilling her on their pet culture war issues regardless of their relevance to a Supreme Court justice’s job description – setting themselves up well for appearances in conservative media.

Here, Andrew Feinberg takes a look at where the hearings really hit rock bottom.

The most ridiculous questions senators asked Ketanji Brown Jackson

Who is Ketanji Brown Jackson?

12:51 , Andrew Naughtie

Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was sworn in as a circuit court judge on 17 June last year, was confirmed on Thursday 7 April by a vote of 53 to 47 after being nominated by President Joe Biden in late February, ending a month-long search for a replacement for Justice Stephen G Breyer.

Seeking to fulfil his 2020 campaign promise to name a Black woman to serve on the highest court in the nation, Mr Biden interviewed at least three potential nominees, with Ms Jackson, Leondra Kruger and J Michelle Childs considered to be the top candidates.

Ms Jackson has been under consideration for a Supreme Court seat before. When Justice Scalia passed away unexpectedly in early 2016, she was one of five candidates whom then-president Barack Obama interviewed before choosing current US Attorney General Merrick Garland as his pick to succeed Scalia.

Read our profile below.

Who is Ketanji Brown Jackson?

Good morning

12:48 , Andrew Naughtie

Welcome to our coverage of Ketanji Brown Jackson’s swearing-in as the Supreme Court’s first Black woman justice. Stay with us for updates.