Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is set to become the first Black female justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, now that the Senate has voted to confirm her nomination.
The Senate confirmed President Joe Biden’s nominee in a 53 to 47 vote on April 7. Jackson is currently a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and will take the place of Justice Stephen Breyer on the high court when he retires this summer.
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Thurgood Marshall, the Supreme Court’s first Black justice, was confirmed in 1967. Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female justice, was confirmed in 1981. Now Jackson will be the first Black female justice.
When Biden first introduced Jackson, he said she would “help write the next chapter in the history of the journey of America.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said, “This milestone should have happened generations ago … but we are always trotting on a path towards a more perfect union.”
Since Jackson is replacing another Democrat-appointed justice, her confirmation isn’t expected to affect the court’s Republican-appointed 6-3 majority.
How Will Jackson Approach Workplace Cases?
“A review of Judge Jackson’s case history reveals a seasoned judge who has handled many labor and employment matters and likes to rule by the book,” observed law firm Fisher Phillips. “Her record on employment cases is decidedly moderate—if not more favorable to defendant-employers than plaintiffs. While employers may find ultimate success before Judge Jackson, her decisions do not reveal any particular bias.”
Fisher Phillips added, “Judge Jackson has not always sided with employers, however, as you would expect from a judge who rules by the book.” Jackson will likely remain “thorough in her opinions and consistent in her reliance on precedent.”
‘Nuanced and Pragmatic Approach’
“Due to the current composition of the Supreme Court, Judge Jackson’s appointment is unlikely to have a significant impact on the outcome of labor and employment law cases in the near term,” said Stephanie Adler-Paindiris and Stephanie Lewis, attorneys with Jackson Lewis, in an article published by Law360. “Given her body of work as a district court judge on employment and labor law issues, Judge Jackson is expected to defy stereotypical political descriptions and to take a more nuanced and pragmatic approach.”
Possible ‘Labor-Friendly Approach’
Law firm Littler Mendelson also noted that “Judge Jackson’s approach to labor and employment cases suggests that she is a balanced and reasonable jurist who would not bring a strong ideological agenda (either pro-employee or pro-employer) to the bench.”
However, Littler said, Jackson’s written decisions suggest that she will take a labor-friendly approach to cases involving disputes between unions and employers. For example, she enjoined key provisions of a National Labor Relations Board rule that would have rescinded union-friendly board election rules that the board put in place during President Barack Obama’s administration.
Breyer will officially step down after the current term ends in June or July. Jackson will be a “justice in waiting” until then. Although she could keep her seat on the federal appeals court, she will likely step down due to potential conflicts of interest in cases she may hear on the appeals court that may later be heard by the Supreme Court, according to PBS NewsHour National Correspondent John Yang.