Ketanji Brown Jackson was sworn in today to replace Stephen Breyer on the Supreme Court, becoming the first Black woman justice in history and the first justice since Thurgood Marshall with experience as a defense attorney.
On Wednesday, Breyer sent a letter to Joe Biden announcing that he planned to retire the next day after the court released its last remaining opinions.
“It has been my great honor to participate as a judge in the effort to maintain our Constitution and the Rule of Law,” he wrote.
Brown Jackson was confirmed to the court in April in a 53-47 vote after a brutal hearing where Republicans like Josh Hawley baselessly smeared her as soft on pedophilia. Three moderate Republicans—Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski—crossed the aisle to support her.
Despite the historic nature of her confirmation, Brown Jackson will join the court during one of its most reactionary terms in recent history. Within the scope of a week, the court’s conservative supermajority has thrown out established precedent and eliminated the right to an abortion, curtailed states’ abilities to pass certain gun regulations, and severely limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Confidence in the court has recently sunk to an all-time low, and reports paint a portrait of an institution awash in distrust.
Brown Jackson will join her liberal colleagues Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, both of whom have written increasingly angry and despairing dissents about the state of the court and its willingness to throw out precedent to serve a conservative policy agenda.