Jackson tells senators she sees Breyer as judicial model, would ‘hope to carry on his spirit’

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is sworn in on the first day of her Supreme Court confirmation hearings
Greg Nash

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in her statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee on the opening day of her confirmation hearing Monday cited retiring Justice Stephen Breyer as her judicial model, saying that if confirmed she would “hope to carry on his spirit.”

Jackson once clerked for Breyer and would likely take his place among the three-member liberal wing on the 6-3 conservative-majority court alongside Justices Sonia Sotomayor, 67, and Elena Kagan, 61.

At 51, Jackson would bring youth; diversity, as the nation’s first Black female Supreme Court justice; and likely a more liberal approach than the 83-year-old Breyer, known for his judicial modesty and pragmatism.

“Justice Breyer not only gave me the greatest job that any young lawyer could ever hope to have, but he also exemplifies what it means to be a Supreme Court Justice of the highest level of skill and integrity, civility, and grace,” Jackson said. “It is extremely humbling to be considered for Justice Breyer’s seat, and I know that I could never fill his shoes.  But if confirmed, I would hope to carry on his spirit.”

The 83-year-old Breyer will retire from the Supreme Court this summer after 27 years on the bench. 

Jackson’s nod to Breyer closed with a quote from his nomination that spoke to their shared view that law should not lose sight of the people it impacts. 

“On the day of his Supreme Court nomination, Justice Breyer said: ‘What is Law supposed to do, seen as a whole? It is supposed to allow all people — all people — to live together in a society, where they have so many different views, so many different needs, to live together in a way that is more harmonious, that is better, so that they can work productively together.’”

Appearing emotional, Jackson added, “I could not have said it better myself.”

Jackson is expected to win confirmation to the court, though she is set for a grilling Tuesday during the opening day of questioning from members of the panel, who spent much of their opening statements on Monday prefacing the coming debate.

Democrats and the White House are hoping to win a handful of GOP votes for Jackson’s confirmation. 

–Updated at 3:56 p.m. 

Tags Elena Kagan Jackson nomination Ketanji Brown Jackson Sonia Sotomayor Stephen Breyer Supreme Court

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