WASHINGTON — Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed Thursday by the Senate to serve as the next associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, becoming the first Black woman to do so.
But the 51-year-old won't be joining any of the court's cases for a few more months. That's because the seat Jackson is set to take over won't open until June or July.
When Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement, he said he will officially step done at the end of the court's current term, which usually closes in late June or early July. It is only then that Jackson will officially be sworn in by another member of the court.
So, it could be about three months between Jackson's confirmation and her swearing. But once Breyer officially retires, the gap before she joins the court should be relatively short and normal. While lengthy court vacancies have become more rare over the last few decades, Republicans famously refused to give Barack Obama's nominee a hearing in 2016.
For instance, the turnaround time between the death of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the swearing in of Amy Coney Barrett, the most recent justice to be appointed, was only 39 days. Republicans were eager to appoint former President Donald Trump's nominee given that the 2020 presidential election was just weeks away, and the White House organized a swearing-in ceremony the same day of her confirmation on Oct. 27, 2020.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh was also sworn-in on the same day he was confirmed by the Senate on Oct. 6, 2018. That meant there was a vacancy on the court for just 67 days after former Justice Anthony Kennedy retired on July 31, 2018.
But Republicans are also responsible for the most recent long-term SCOTUS vacancy. After the sudden death of the late Antonin Scalia in Feb. 2016, then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to hold confirmation hearings for Obama's nominee, current Attorney General Merrick Garland.
It was only after Trump became president and nominated Neil Gorsuch that the vacancy ended, 422 days after Scalia's death.
The longest vacancy on the Supreme Court lasted between 1844 and 1866, during which time three nominees were rejected by the Senate.