ABC’s “Good Morning America” congratulated newly sworn-in Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson Thursday as the “first Black Supreme Court justice in U.S. history.” That would be news to Justice Clarence Thomas, who is also black and is still serving on the high bench.
Before Thomas was confirmed in 1991, Justice Thurgood Marshall became the first black justice to serve on the court in 1967. Thomas filled Marshall’s seat with an appointment from President George H.W. Bush after the senior justice retired. Marshall died in 1993.
While two black justices were confirmed to the high court before her, Justice Jackson’s appointment marks the first time a black woman will serve on the bench to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, whose last day came as the final opinions were handed down for the court’s latest term Thursday. President Joe Biden made Jackson’s identity as a black woman a prerequisite for nomination just as he pledged to select a female running mate in 2020. At her Senate confirmation hearings, however, Justice Jackson was unable to define a “woman.”
“I’m not a biologist,” Jackson said in response to the question from Tennessee Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn.
Justice Jackson also captured scrutiny from senators who questioned the federal judge’s jurisprudence following sentences below federal guidelines in every child pornography case for which records are available.
Three Republicans in the upper chamber ultimately joined Democrats to confirm Judge Jackson to the Supreme Court, including Maine’s Susan Collins, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, and Utah’s Mitt Romney. Romney had previously voted no on Judge Jackson’s nomination less than a year prior for a seat on the D.C. Circuit.