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Cheers for Jackson as Biden declares ‘moment of real change’

Mr Biden nominated her on the second anniversary of his pledge ahead of the South Carolina presidential primary.

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President Joe Biden, accompanied by Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson (Andrew Harnik/AP)

President Joe Biden, accompanied by Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson (Andrew Harnik/AP)

President Joe Biden, accompanied by Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson (Andrew Harnik/AP)

President Joe Biden celebrated the confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first black woman to reach the Supreme Court, hailing “a moment of real change in American history”.

It was a moment 46 days — and more than two centuries — in the making. Ms Jackson, who was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday, will take the bench later this year, filling the shoes of retiring Justice Stephen Breyer on a court that was made up entirely of white men for almost two centuries, that declared her race unworthy of citizenship and endorsed American segregation.

Ms Jackson, at times speaking through tears as she thanked her family and mentors for their support, promised to follow in retiring Justice Breyer’s footsteps on the bench.

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President Joe Biden, accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson (Andrew Harnik/AP)

President Joe Biden, accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson (Andrew Harnik/AP)

AP/PA Images

President Joe Biden, accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson (Andrew Harnik/AP)

“I have done my level best to stay in my lane and to reach a result that is consistent with my understanding of the law,” she said, “And with the obligation to rule independently, without fear or favour.”

Ms Jackson’s arrival on the bench will not upend the current 6-3 conservative balance. But in addition to the racial history, it will put for the first time four women on the court at one time.

Mr Biden nominated her on the second anniversary of his pledge ahead of the South Carolina presidential primary to select a black woman for the court.

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The move helped resurrect his flailing campaign and preserved his pathway to the White House, and Mr Biden said the promise of putting someone like Ms Jackson on the court helped motivate his bid for the Oval Office.

“I could see it as a day of hope, a day of promise, a day of progress, a day when once again the moral arc of the universe — as Barack (Obama) used to quote all the time — bends a little more toward justice,” Mr Biden said at a boisterous event on the South Lawn of the White House.

“I believe so strongly that we needed a court that looks like America.”

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Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s family (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s family (Andrew Harnik/AP)

AP/PA Images

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s family (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Mr Biden praised Ms Jackson’s “incredible character and integrity” during the confirmation process, saying she put up with “verbal abuse, the anger, constant interruptions, the most vile baseless assertions and accusations”.

He praised the three Republican senators who joined Democrats to back her for the court: Maine Sen Susan Collins, Alaska Sen Lisa Murkowski and Utah Sen Mitt Romney.

Ms Jackson will be the high court’s first former public defender — with the elite legal background of other justices as well. She has degrees from Harvard and Harvard Law School and held top clerkships, including for Mr Breyer himself.

The crowd on the White House lawn included Ms Jackson’s family, members of Mr Biden’s Cabinet, some of the Democratic senators who backed her nomination, as well as Democratic representatives and allies.

The White House said all current and former justices of the Supreme Court were invited, but none attended.

The event came amid a Covid-19 outbreak among Washington’s political class that has sidelined members of Mr Biden’s administration and lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

On Thursday, Ms Jackson had joined Biden at the White House to watch the Senate vote unfold on TV, the two of them clasping hands in the Roosevelt Room as her confirmation became reality.

As a longtime Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Mr Biden had a front-row seat to some of the most contentious confirmation battles in the court’s history, as well as the hearings for Justice Stephen Breyer, whose retirement this summer is clearing the way for Ms Jackson to join the bench.


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