(CNN) — Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson will join the Supreme Court on Thursday, making history as America’s first black female judge and beginning what could be a decades-long term.
But Jackson will begin his work in a court in crisis.
The country is reeling from the aftermath of the biggest decision in decades, where a majority of conservative justices struck down half a century of abortion law by overturning Roe v. Wade and expanded gun rights for the first time in more than a decade.
The judges work to maintain civility in public, but the opinions of this period revealed internal confrontations. The justices were not only attacking their opponents’ reasoning in the case at hand, they were renewing grievances expressed in earlier opinions.
Things won’t calm down soon. New challenges related to women’s reproductive health, the Second Amendment, and even same-sex marriage are likely to arise in state and federal courts across the country. Related disputes will return to the high court in some form, saluting the nine justices who are hopelessly divided on many social issues.
After his confirmation, in a moving speech on the South Lawn in April, Jackson noted that his family “took only a generation to go from segregation to the Supreme Court of the United States.”
“It is an honor of a lifetime,” he said, “to have this opportunity to join the court, promote the rule of law at the highest level, and do my part to carry out a shared project of democracy and equal justice under the law.” forward, into the future.”
Jackson will be sworn in Thursday at noon Miami time in the Supreme Court.
She will receive the two required oaths. First, Chief Justice John Roberts will take the constitutional oath, and then Justice Stephen Breyer, whom Jackson will succeed, will take the judicial oath, in a ceremony in the West Conference Room before a small gathering of the Jackson family. .
Those who know Jackson say her time serving on the lower courts has prepared her for the high court and a multi-member divided body. They believe her contentious confirmation hearings in which Republicans accused her of being soft on child pornography crimes opened her eyes to the depth of division in the country at a difficult time in history.
“He has reached the pinnacle of his profession but is stepping into a role where it is unclear if he will have much influence, teaming up with co-workers who clearly have deteriorating relationships,” said a friend who requested anonymity.
The next term in the Supreme Court will be dramatic: the cases that come
Although summers are often a time for judges to flee Washington, the next term starts in three short months and there are momentous cases on the docket.
On the first day of his term, Jackson will take the seat reserved for the court’s youngest judge and will hear a case that could limit the federal government’s jurisdiction over wetlands protected by the Clean Water Act.
The next day, they will hear an Alabama redistricting case and explore the contours of a key provision of the Voting Rights Act that prohibits voting practices that discriminate on the basis of race.
Liberals will recall the words of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2013, when the court struck down a separate provision of the Voting Rights Act that gave rise to the “Notorious RBG” moniker. Back then, Ginsburg wrote that throwing away protection was like “throwing down your umbrella in a storm because you don’t get wet.”
Two affirmative action cases challenging admissions policies at Harvard and the University of North Carolina are not yet scheduled. Presumably due to his time serving on Harvard’s board of supervisors, Jackson said during his confirmation hearing that he would recuse himself from the Harvard dispute. However, he can rule on the challenge from North Carolina.
The court will also deal with a case involving a web designer who will not work with same-sex couples due to an objection to same-sex marriage. It is a continuation of a dispute in 2018 when the court sided with a Colorado baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. The final opinion in that case was carefully tailored to the dispute at hand and did not have broad national implications. The new case could have a more sweeping result.
All of this will unfold as the court continues to try to determine who leaked a draft opinion on this term’s abortion case a month before it was officially published. The move sparked paranoia in the high court by breaking its rules and prompting justices to question which of them or their clerks tried to undermine the court’s legitimacy.
Ketanji B. Jackson’s credentials
Jackson was chosen by President Joe Biden not only because of her excellent Ivy League credentials, but also because of her diversity of experience, including time serving as Assistant Federal Public Defender, Commissioner of the US Sentencing Commission. , was a lawyer in private practice and spent two periods in prestigious federal courts.
She is the first black woman on the court and along with Judge Amy Coney Barrett, they will be the only ones with school-age children. Jackson hails from Florida, where her own mother was originally a public school teacher and her father was a teacher who graduated from law school as an adult and later became a senior adviser to the Florida School Board. Miami-Dade County.
“It’s a powerful thing when people can see themselves in others,” Biden said after Jackson was confirmed, calling the belief “one of the reasons I believe so strongly that we needed a court that looks like To united states”.
Biden said Jackson endured “verbal abuse” during her Senate confirmation hearings, praising her for her “balance and composure” in the face of attacks from Republicans.
“The anger, the constant interruptions, the vilest and most baseless claims and accusations. In the face of all this, Judge Jackson showed the incredible character and integrity she possesses. Balance. Balance and composure. Patience and restraint. And yes, perseverance, and even joy,” Biden said.
Jackson will join the liberal wing of the Court
The other two liberal justices, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, licking their wounds after a period marked by bombastic exchanges on various opinions, are probably hoping for fresh energy and a new perspective, even if they are about to lose Breyer, their friend, who also brought I get years of experience and hard-earned friendships with some of the conservatives.
Jackson (like Kagan, Barrett, Roberts, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh) joins the court with a familiarity with how the court works, having served as a clerk in 1999 working for Breyer. But every time a new judge takes her place, she changes the dynamic of the entire court.
Jackson will settle among the Liberals, taking direction at times from Sotomayor who, due to her seniority, now has the power of assignment when the Liberals are in dissent. Together they will strategize on how to combat a conservative majority in cases that divide them along ideological lines. This term, it was Breyer, as the older liberal, who presumably decided that they would write a joint dissent rather than an individual dissent that was joined by the others when the conservatives overturned Roe v. Wade. Such a show of force is unusual and underlines the seriousness of the case.
Each judge brings their own style to the court. Kagan, for example, often looks for a way to minimize conservative gains, looking for narrow areas of consensus. Sotomayor, on the other hand, writes for the rafters, hoping that his dissent will one day become mainstream opinion. In the lower courts, Jackson was known for her lengthy and meticulous opinions and had a reputation as a strong progressive.
But it will take years to determine where exactly it sits on the grand scale.
As for the five members of the right wing of the court, they have sent a clear message this term that they are prepared to continue the court’s movement to the right at a rapid pace, avoiding precedent when necessary. The abortion case showed the fact that they don’t need Roberts’ vote, nor his preference for incrementalism. They have taken the reins from the boss and are charting their own course.
“Justice Jackson will join a court that represents, with its conservative majority and more liberal dissenters, two starkly different views of the United States and its Constitution,” said Elizabeth Wydra, president of the liberal Center for Constitutional Accountability.
“You probably have no illusions about being able to immediately write major opinions that assert equal rights or promote freedom in a way that allows all diverse people and communities to thrive,” Wydra said.