Ketanji Brown Jackson takes Supreme Court bench for first day of oral arguments

Supreme Court Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson took her seat Monday as the newest justice and first Black woman ever to sit on its bench.

The nation’s high court heard oral arguments in the first case of its term, Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency, which will determine whether the Clean Water Act applies to wetlands.

It was the first time the general public was allowed inside the Supreme Court since the pandemic began.

Jackson, seated at the left end of the justices, next to fellow Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, was active in her debut, peppering lawyers for both sides with questions.

Oral arguments in a second case, Delaware v. Pennsylvania and Wisconsin et al — a dispute over uncashed MoneyGram checks — were scheduled for later Monday.

The court has agreed to hear nine cases this term involving a range of major issues, including affirmative action, LGBTQ equality and voting rights.

On Tuesday, it will hear arguments in Merrill v. Milligan and Caster, a case that will decide whether Alabama’s 2021 redistricting plan violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

Jackson, 52, was appointed by President Biden to replace 84-year-old Justice Stephen Breyer, who retired in June.

She is the Supreme Court’s 116th justice and the first Black woman. Just two Black men have served on the high court — Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas; Thomas is now the most senior associate justice on the court.

The nine-member court now includes four women — Jackson and Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Amy Coney Barrett — the most ever at one time.

It is also the first time in U.S. history that white men are not in the majority on the Supreme Court. The bench includes five men, four of them white.

On Friday, Biden attended Jackson's historic investiture at the Supreme Court, and celebrated fulfilling one of his campaign promises.

"I told you all I was going to appoint a black woman to the Supreme Court," Biden later told supporters at a fundraiser. "And we did."

Jackson's ascension to the nation's high court comes amid the country's growing distrust in the institution itself. A Yahoo News/YouGov poll released in June showed that more than six in 10 Americans (61%) now have little or no confidence in the Supreme Court after its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.