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Senate confirms Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to powerful D.C. federal appeals court

Biden to fill federal court vacancies
Federal judges announce plans to retire, opening court vacancies for Biden to fill 08:35

Washington — The Senate on Monday approved the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the federal appeals court in the District of Columbia, confirming President Biden's first nominee to the U.S. appellate courts.

Jackson received bipartisan backing from the upper chamber in a 53 to 44 vote. Three Republicans — Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — joined Democrats in confirming Jackson, a judge on the federal district court in D.C. She will fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Merrick Garland.

The D.C. Circuit is considered the nation's second most-powerful court and a springboard to the Supreme Court. Three of the high court's nine members — Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh — served on the appeals court in the nation's capital before ascending to the high court.

Jackson is considered a contender for the Supreme Court if a vacancy arises during Mr. Biden's presidency, especially since the president has pledged to name the nation's first Black woman to the high court if there is an open seat.

That prospect has led progressive judicial groups to call for Justice Stephen Breyer, who has been on the Supreme Court for 27 years and for whom Jackson clerked, to retire and allow Mr. Biden to name a successor while Democrats hold slim control of the Senate.

The president announced his intent to nominate Jackson to the D.C. Circuit in March as part of his first tranche of judicial nominees, and the pick was widely applauded by Democrats. Jackson has served on the U.S. District Court in D.C. since 2013 and was vice chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission. She also worked as an assistant federal public defender in D.C. for two years, professional experience that judicial groups say is lacking on the federal bench. 

With Jackson's confirmation, there are eight vacancies on the federal courts of appeals, which are the last stop for thousands of cases. The president has announced nominees for six of those seats.

Of the more than 80 open spots on the federal courts, Mr. Biden has named 13 candidates, who are diverse in both their backgrounds and professional experience. The Senate last week confirmed Zahid Quraishi to the U.S. District Court in New Jersey, making him the first Muslim-American federal judge in the nation's history.

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