On April 7th, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve on the Supreme Court. She will be the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court, and will be sworn in to replace Justice Stephen Breyer when he steps down at the beginning of the Supreme Court’s summer recess in June or July.
Once on the bench, Jackson will be in the difficult position of holding a liberal seat on a 6-3 conservative-majority bench. This means that she will likely have very little influence over court decisions, at least for the moment.
“[Jackson] can still have an impact, even if she ends up writing minority dissents in many cases,” said Associate Dean for Clinical Education Robin Walker Sterling in an article for Northwestern Now.
Jackson is expected to be key in upcoming cases such as race in the college admissions process, congressional maps and religious freedom, but the impact of her appointment may not be significant for decades to come.
The other big news story coming out of the Supreme Court surrounds Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, Ginni Thomas. On March 24th, the Washington Post reported that Ginni Thomas sent texts to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows encouraging him to overturn the 2020 presidential election. In these texts, Ginni Thomas went as far as to suggest strategy for Trump’s legal team, stating that she believed that Sidney Powell should be “the lead and the face” of their team. Technically, Thomas was never mentioned in these texts, but his relation to Ginni Thomas has created concern about a conflict of interest in cases involving January 6th and election safety.
Thomas has already ruled on a case surrounding Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election, being the only justice to side with Trump’s lawyers in an application to block the release of certain White House records in January.
In addition to concerns about Thomas’ connections to efforts to overturn the 2020 election and the events of January 6th lies worries surrounding his health. In late March, Thomas was hospitalized for a week with what a Supreme Court press release described as “flu-like symptoms.” No additional details regarding Thomas’ health were provided.
Before Jackson was confirmed to the Supreme Court earlier this month, Thomas’ 1991 confirmation was the most recent time a Black person was confirmed to the Supreme Court. The two Justices could not be more different politically or personally.
Looking forward, we can expect Jackson to continue defending Roe v. Wade. Likewise, Jackson is likely to side against use of executive power, especially when it comes to the events of January 6th. Thomas, on the other hand, will likely continue siding with the more conservative opinion, particularly regarding abortion rights and cases relating to the events of January 6.
The court is expected to hear Merrill v. Milligan, a case questioning if Alabama’s current redistricting plan is a violation of the Voting Rights Act, sometime early in their October 2022 term, where we’ll be able to see Jackson in action.