Jackson’s confirmation would put her in a unique position: justice awaits

(Bloomberg) — Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson will suddenly find herself with plenty of free time if the Senate meets expectations and confirms her to the U.S. Supreme Court this week.

The busiest six weeks of Jackson’s life will likely turn into a three-month wait once she’s cleared for a Supreme Court seat that won’t open until late June or early July. . Justice Stephen Breyer said in January he would retire at the end of the court’s current term.

It will be an unprecedented position, created by the timing of Breyer’s retirement announcement coupled with the Democrats’ decision to put his confirmation on a relatively fast track. Jackson now sits on a federal appeals court in Washington, though she has suspended work there since her Feb. 25 appointment.

Previous justices have generally only had a few days after obtaining confirmation to begin work at the nation’s highest court.

“We’re really in uncharted territory here,” said Marin Levy, a Duke University Law School professor who specializes in court administration and studies Supreme Court history.

The Senate is due to vote on Jackson’s nomination as early as Thursday. Three Republicans said they would join 50 House Democrats in supporting her, guaranteeing confirmation. But the first black woman to stand trial will not begin hearing arguments until the start of the next term in October.

The judge-in-waiting hasn’t said how she will spend the next three months, though she will almost certainly spend time hiring paralegals and deciding how she will run her practice.

She could also be due for a long vacation after a demanding confirmation process that did not stop once she finished her testimony in the Senate on March 23. Since then, she has met with at least 16 senators and answered 1,154 written questions, many of them multipart, from Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

White House spokesman Andrew Bates declined to comment on Jackson’s post-confirmation plans. Betsy Paret, circuit manager for the federal appeals court in Washington where Jackson currently sits, did not respond to a request for comment.

Court of Appeal work

Although Jackson may remain on the appeals court until Breyer retires, she may not have much work to do as her time draws to a close. She is unlikely to take on new cases, as she would then have to recuse herself from those cases if they were appealed to the Supreme Court.

And it is not clear that she will play a role in the cases that have already been entrusted to her. Like previous candidates, she has not participated in decisions since her appointment, even for cases in which she heard arguments.

Each of the last three justices to join the Supreme Court – Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch – have been sworn in with an outstanding term. Barrett heard her first argument a week after being confirmed in 2020. She heard eight cases in her first two weeks, all over the phone because of the coronavirus pandemic, including a major healthcare law challenge affordable.

“I was struggling,” Barrett said during a public appearance this week at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. “I had to create a chamber and hire staff and get into pleadings, read briefs.”

Kavanaugh had even less time in 2018, taking the bench three days after his Senate confirmation ended a bitter fight against accusations of sexual assault committed decades earlier as a teenager. Kavanaugh denied the allegations.

Gorsuch had so much to do when he was confirmed in 2017 that he skipped his first private conference with his new colleagues so he could focus on the seven cases the court would hear the following week. Gorsuch first took the bench a week after taking the oath.

In 2006, Judge Samuel Alito attended the State of the Union address just hours after being confirmed.

new normal

Jackson may need less downtime than some previous new justices since she already lives in the Washington area, said Barbara Perry, a presidential and supreme court scholar at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center.

Even so, the coming months will give him time to “get the sea legs” and “discover his chambers and just knock off the courtly folk ways,” Perry said.

Some pundits say Jackson’s haste-and-wait schedule could become the new normal, especially during election years when presidents want to have their nominees confirmed while their party controls the Senate — and when retired justices want ensure that their successors can be seated.

“I imagine it will actually see more of those situations for judges who say they’re going to retire,” Levy said. “That is, they want to complete a term but want to allow enough time for someone to be nominated and then go through the confirmation process.”

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