Ketanji Brown Jackson took the Supreme Court bench for the first time, quickly settling into her new role with lengthy questioning in high-stakes environmental case
- Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson took the Supreme Court bench for the first time on Monday.
- The newest justice engaged in plenty of questioning on her first day hearing oral arguments.
Monday marked the start of the Supreme Court's new term and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson's first day on the bench, where she asked several questions during nearly two hours of arguments in a high-stakes environmental case.
Jackson sat at the end of the bench to the left of Chief Justice John Roberts, who sits in the middle according to tradition. Next to Jackson was Justice Brett Kavanaugh, whom she briefly spoke to and laughed with before arguments began.
The newest justice took notes as she listened to a challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency's authority under the Clean Water Act, a landmark environmental law passed in 1972 to protect the nation's waters from pollution.
Around 10 minutes in, Jackson kicked off her first line of questioning to the lawyer representing Michael and Chantell Sackett, an Idaho couple who want to build on their land but were blocked by the EPA, which claims the area contained wetlands subject to its jurisdiction.
Jackson, appointed to the nation's highest court by President Joe Biden this spring, seemed to embrace the federal government's position to exercise its authority over wetlands.
"Why is it that your conception of this does not relate in any way to Congress' primary objective?" Jackson asked attorney Damien Schiff. "Do you dispute that the primary objective, stated in the statute ... is that Congress cared about making sure that the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation's waters was protected?"
In multiple instances, Jackson went toe-to-toe with Schiff, signaling that she might be an active participant on the bench as the term continues. Justices Kavanaugh, Sonia Sotomayor, and Amy Coney Barrett followed up on Jackson's questioning at various points.
Justices Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, the two liberals on the bench besides Jackson, pressed Schiff on similar points while the court's conservatives appeared more doubtful of the EPA's authority. Should the court side with the Sacketts, the EPA could become restricted in its power to safeguard the nation's wetlands.
Jackson's debut follows her historic confirmation in April, becoming the first Black woman on the Supreme Court in its 233-year history.
Biden nominated Jackson, then-a federal judge on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, to replace the retired Justice Stephen Breyer, whom she had once clerked for. After a contentious set of hearings, all 50 Senate Democrats and three Senate Republicans voted to confirm Jackson to the Supreme Court.
Jackson's addition to the bench did not change the court's 6-3 conservative majority. Still, Jackson could have the opportunity to write some stinging dissents.
In the new term, the court will take up major cases dealing with affirmative action, voting rights, free speech, among other issues, following last term's historic rulings that eliminated federal abortion rights, expanded gun rights and strengthened religious rights.
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