The Supreme Court investiture marks another historic first for Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson


The Supreme Court, a place steeped in tradition and formalism, will hold one of its biggest scripted rituals on Friday in favor of a judge whose appointment has broken the mold of history.

The inauguration ceremony of Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first black woman on the bench, will be marked by the history of history, including the use of the commission’s language of John Marshall’s historic bench and the first justice appointed by John Jay. By President George Washington.

“You know,” the presidential commission will begin, as read by Clerk of Court Scott Harris, “that he reposes special trust and confidence in the wisdom, rectitude and learning of Ketanji Brown Jackson … in witness whereof, I have caused these letters to be made patent and affixed to the seal of the Department of Justice.” it is needed”.

President Joe Biden, who nominated Jackson, will attend Friday morning’s ceremony, a White House official told CNN. Before the event, it is customary for the president to chat privately with the justices in a conference room and sign the court’s oversized guest book.

The official told CNN that Vice President Kamala Harris, First Lady Jill Biden and Second Lady Doug Emhoff will also be at the inauguration.

No cameras are allowed inside the courthouse, and photographers usually wait outside for the new justice to exit the ceremony and take the traditional walk down the 36 marble steps at the front of the columned building. According to custom, Jackson will be Chief Justice John Roberts.

In the court’s 233-year history, no African-American woman has participated in this rite of passage and decided the law of the land. Out of a total of 116 judges over time, all but eight have been white. Jackson is the sixth woman in the chair; three others are still serving: Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Amy Coney Barrett.

The symbolic moment has come as Biden, who vowed in his 2020 campaign to appoint the first black woman justice, continues to emphasize diversity in his judicial picks. It has appointed 143 federal judges, of which 68% are women and 66% are people of color. He has appointed 13 black women as circuit court judges, with seven confirmed so far.

Jackson, 52, who previously sat on the U.S. district and appeals courts, took the official Supreme Court oath in late June when Justice Stephen Breyer retired. Jackson has been voting on emergency cases and preparing for the next session in 2022-23 ever since. He took part in the first closed-door session of the new term on Wednesday, as the nine gathered through caseloads brought in over the summer and laid out procedures for their building, which opened to the public for the first time since it closed in March 2020. Because of Covid-19.

The special session of the court to commission a new justice was instituted in the early 1970s by then-Chief Justice Warren Burger, who enjoyed the institution’s rapture.

Burger also began using the Marshall chair, a black horsehair seat and back, distinguished by brass nail trim. The new justice sits on the bench before being escorted to the bench to be sworn in.

Friday’s inauguration, the first of a Democratic nominee in 12 years, is likely to bring progressive lights of the law together with Jackson’s family and friends. Earlier such events for the GOP nominations saw the Republican old guard in the courtroom before the event. Afterwards, an invitation-only reception will be held in the courthouse. Outside, well-wishers sometimes gather. Sometimes they are protesters.

As carefully planned as these investments are, they have not been without flaws. The Attorney General is usually at the lectern to present the committee, which is signed in advance by the president.

In November 2018, one day before Brett Kavanaugh’s formal inauguration, President Donald Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions for completely unrelated reasons. Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker then took it upon himself to refer the scroll commission to the judge.

Another asterisk for the Kavanaugh ceremony: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s black leather chair was empty. He fell and broke his ribs. When he was hospitalized for that injury, doctors discovered lung cancer, and he underwent surgery that December. Ginsburg died in September 2020.

The court hearing for Barrett’s inauguration of his successor was reduced due to pandemic measures, and for that event in 2021, Kavanaugh’s chair was not occupied. He just tested positive for Covid-19.

Current Attorney General Merrick Garland will be on hand Friday to ask Clerk Harris to read the scroll to the committee. Garland could have stood on the bench he once erected. Former President Barack Obama nominated Garland to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016, but Senate Republicans blocked action on the nomination.

Breyer is expected to return to the court for the special session. He will watch from one of the audience seats near the front of the hall. Other expected judicial dignitaries include colleagues from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, where Jackson sat from mid-2021 until his top court confirmation this year, and the US District Court in DC where Jackson donned the black robe for the first time, including Paul. Friedman and Ellen Huvelle.

Other friends and mentors on his list include U.S. District Court Judges Patti Saris of Massachusetts and Landya McCafferty of New Hampshire, and U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Ray Lohier of New York.

The new justice’s husband, Patrick Jackson, a surgeon, will be in court, along with his daughters Leila and Talia. Jackson grew up near Miami, and his parents, Johnny and Ellery Brown, who still live in Florida, are due to attend the event.

For investiture purposes, the Chief Justice of Marshall (who served from 1801-1835) was Lewis Powell, for investiture purposes, in January 1972. He was immediately followed by William Rehnquist, who was sworn in as an associate justice the same day. . (Rehnquist became chief justice in 1986.)

Powell was replaced by Hugo Black and Rehnquist by John Marshall Harlan. (The two previous judges who died shortly after leaving the bench in September 1971 were ill).

Judge Jackson in remarks: I am a slave’s dream

The Powell and Rehnquist nominations were then-President Richard Nixon’s third and fourth. According to The New York Times, a single picket marched outside the inauguration with a sign that read, “America mourns the death of an institution.”

It turns out that Sandra Day O’Connor, a close friend of the Rehnquists from Arizona, was there that day on January 7, 1972. It was the first time to the court. And within a decade, O’Connor, a lawyer, state senator and then state court judge, sat on the John Marshall bench. President Ronald Reagan appointed her in 1981, making O’Connor the nation’s first female justice.

Jackson will now become the first African-American woman to judge cases on the Supreme Court. The nine justices will return to court Monday for the start of the 2022-23 session.

Already on the calendar are studies of whether colleges and universities can continue to use student race as a factor in acceptance of diversity on campus and the breadth of the Voting Rights Act’s protections against discriminatory electoral practices.

After the commission is read, Roberts will administer the judicial oath, in which a new justice swears to “administer justice without respect to the people … do equal justice to the poor and the rich … faithfully and impartially perform and discharge all duties that they must.” Associate Justice of the Supreme Court “under the Constitution and laws of the United States.”

The whole ceremony usually takes about five minutes.

As Roberts and Jackson stand out in front as photographers capture the scene, they’ll be accompanied by Jackson’s husband, according to the schedule.

It is rarely said in this single moment in the public lens.

But in 1981, when Burger came down the stairs with O’Connor, the chief justice told photographers: “You’ve never seen me with a better-looking justice, have you?”

If Burger’s remarks alienated O’Connor, the first female justice didn’t let it show.