As the first Black woman on the nation's highest court, Ketanji Brown Jackson broke a glass ceiling when she was sworn in on Thursday.
The 116th justice on the court is the 51-year-old Jackson, who replaced the justice she previously supported. At midday, Justice Stephen Breyer officially announced his retirement.
Jackson later repeated the two oaths required of Supreme Court judges, with the support of her family.
Jackson said, "With a full heart, I assume the solemn responsibility of preserving the Constitution and dispensing justice without regard to persons or circumstances."
“I'm grateful to contribute to our nation's promise. I appreciate everyone's warm welcome,” she continued.
Roberts welcomed Jackson to "our mutual calling." The ceremony was live-streamed online. Neil Gorsuch was the only justice who didn't attend, and the reason for his absence was unknown.
Jackson, a federal judge since 2013, joins female Justices Sotomayor, Kagan, and Barrett. Four women will serve on the court for the first time.
President Joe Biden said, "Her historic swearing-in today signifies a meaningful leap forward for our nation, for all the young, Black girls who now see themselves on our highest court, and for all of us as Americans." He also thanked retiring Justice Breyer for his service.
Biden nominated Jackson in February after Breyer, 83, said he would step down at the end of the court's term. Breyer's earlier-than-usual announcement and condition were an acknowledgement of the Democrats' tenuous Senate hold.
The Senate backed Jackson's nomination 53 to 47, primarily along party lines and including three Republicans.
Jackson remained a federal appeals court judge in Washington, D.C., although she had stopped hearing cases. Biden promoted the Obama appointee to the Supreme Court.
Glynda Carr, president of Higher Heights for America, said Jackson's inauguration was bittersweet.
“Even while we remember her today, a single Black woman or group of Black women can't preserve this democracy,” noted Carr. “We're part of it and doing our part. She'll shape the court forever.”
Carr says she's simply part of the job moving forward.
As a result of Jackson's appointment, Judith Browne Dianis will withdraw her protest against joining the Supreme Court Bar. The executive director of the civil rights group Advancement Project, Dianis began her dissent after Clarence Thomas' 1991 confirmation. She said the court's recent conservative decisions can't degrade Thursday's celebration.
"This is a great occasion and a wonderful moment," said Dianis. "Conservatives are holding the line and trying to take us back because they recognize our success. That's the court she’s entering now, like a never-ending Civil War.”
Jackson can start immediately, but the court will have finished most of its work for the fall. That will give her time to settle in and learn about the 20 cases the court has agreed to consider in October and the hundreds of summer appeals.
She's the first former public defender to serve as a justice, making it the most diverse in 232 years. However, Jackson joins the most conservative court since the 1930s. She'll likely lose key disputes before the court's 6-3 conservative majority in the future term. These cases may entail redistricting, college admissions, and voting rights.
Following the arrest of a man with a gun, knife, and zip ties near Justice Brett Kavanaugh's Maryland home, a bill was passed surrounding the court with a fence and providing justices and their families with round-the-clock U.S. Marshals protection. The draft court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade and restrict abortion rights in half the states was leaked in May.
After a historic and acrimonious term, the court published final opinions early Thursday. One of Thursday's judgments limited how the EPA can use the country's principal anti-air pollution law to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.