(WASHINGTON) — The Senate confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals in a 53-44 vote on Monday.
Jackson is the first of President Joe Biden’s Circuit Court nominees confirmed by the Senate, is the first Black woman confirmed to an appellate court in a decade and she will now be one of five Black female circuit court judges currently serving.
Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, joined Democrats in voting in favor of her confirmation.
Jackson, who will be filling the seat Attorney General Merrick Garland left, is one of just 35 active Black female federal judges.
As a former clerk to Justice Stephen Breyer, Jackson is considered a top contender to replace him should he decide to retire. Breyer, 82, has given no indication retirement is imminent, despite mounting pressure from liberal Democrats nervous about the potential for a more difficult confirmation path the longer he waits.
Biden has promised to nominate an African American woman to the court at his first opportunity.
“Women, especially women of color, have long been underrepresented on the federal bench,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor on Monday afternoon. “Along with President Biden, the Senate Democratic majority is working quickly to close the gap.”
“She has all the qualities of a model jurist,” Schumer continued. “She is brilliant, thoughtful, collaborative, and dedicated to applying the law, impartially. For these qualities, she has earned the respect of both sides.”
Bipartisan support for her confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals is seen by supporters as a positive sign for possible future elevation to the high court.
After the Supreme Court, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is the most important federal court in the country. It has jurisdiction over cases involving Congress and the executive branch agencies.
“In other words, the court’s decisions impact almost every aspect of our lives,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said on the Senate floor Monday. “Thankfully, in Judge Jackson, we have a nominee who will be ready from day one to serve justice as a member of the D.C. circuit.”
During her testimony before the Senate, she was grilled by Republican lawmakers and asked if she believed race would play a role in her decision making. She was also asked if mandatory minimums were racist and the role of race in the judicial system. With every response, Jackson emphasized her belief that as a federal judge she has a duty to be independent.
Former President Barack Obama nominated Jackson to the federal District Court for the district in 2012. She previously served as a federal public defender and as vice chair and commissioner on the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
She is also related by marriage to former Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Her husband, Patrick Jackson, is the twin brother of Ryan’s brother-in-law William Jackson.
Ryan even testified on Brown’s behalf when she was nominated to the district court in 2012, offering his “unequivocal” endorsement of her qualifications.
“Our politics may differ, but my praise for Ketanji’s intellect, for her character, for her integrity is unequivocal,” Ryan said at her December 2012 nomination hearing. “She’s an amazing person, and I favorably recommend her consideration.”
ABC News’ Jordyn Phelps, Adia Robinson and Devin Dwyer contributed to this report.
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