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Justice Jackson: History Maker

The United States Senate has voted to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson to the nation’s highest court.

Ketanji Brown Jackson smiling and raising her right hand

Kevin Lamarque—Pool photo/Getty Images News

It’s official: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will serve as a justice on the Supreme Court, the highest court in the United States. The U.S. Senate confirmed Jackson on April 7 by a vote of 53-47. Jackson will be the first Black woman ever to serve on the Supreme Court.

The nine Supreme Court justices have some of the most powerful jobs in the United States. Together, the justices hear about 80 cases every year. They consider whether laws are constitutional, meaning they decide if laws are fair based on what the U.S. Constitution says. Justices have the power to overturn, or reverse, decisions made by lower courts. 

The justices don’t always agree on the cases they hear. In fact, they have very different ideologies, or opinions about issues. They make decisions by taking a vote. 

How do you become a Supreme Court justice? Potential justices are nominated by the president before the Senate votes on whether they should get the job. Nominees are usually chosen based on their experience as a lawyer and a judge. Presidents usually select nominees who have legal opinions similar to their own.

Jackson has had a long career in the law. She grew up in Florida, where both of her parents were teachers before her father became a lawyer and her mother became a school principal. Jackson attended Harvard University and Harvard Law School. After graduation, she worked as a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, assisting him with research and other work that justices do before reaching decisions. Jackson also worked as a lawyer and then a judge. In 2021, Jackson became a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the second most powerful court in the nation.

Like all Supreme Court justices, Jackson will have her job for life, unless she decides to retire. Her legal decisions and opinions will have an important influence on many aspects of life in the United States.

Want to learn more about Ketanji Brown Jackson?

Did You Know?

Black and white photo of the 1894 Supreme Court, nine white men sitting together in black robes

The U.S. Supreme Court, 1894

Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (neg. no. LC-USZ62-76625)

Of the 115 justices that have served on the U.S. Supreme Court, 108 have been white men. But things are changing. Almost half of the Supreme Court justices who have served since 1990 have been women or people of color.

Tomato, Tomahto

A large tomato is on a stage in front of an audience saying to be or not to be a vegetable.

© andresr—E+/Getty Images; © Anettphoto, Ian Dyball/

Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable? If you ask a scientist, a tomato is a fruit. But legally, it’s a vegetable. And that’s because of a Supreme Court ruling from 1893.

The case was called Nix v. Hedden. At the time, vegetables that came into the United States were taxed, but fruits weren’t. One business owner, John Nix, bought some tomatoes from overseas and had to pay a tax. Nix didn’t think that was right. He pointed out that scientists say that tomatoes aren’t vegetables. They’re fruits. Therefore, he said, they shouldn’t be taxed.

Nix took his case to court in 1887. Six years later, the case had made its way to the Supreme Court. Sadly for Nix, the Court ruled that tomatoes should be treated like vegetables—and taxed. Why? Because people eat them like vegetables, in sauces and on salads. 

“In the common language of the people…these are vegetables,” wrote Justice Horace Gray. 

So tomatoes are fruits, unless you’re writing a law about them.

Oyez! Oyez!

How can a Supreme Court decision be reversed? It’s not easy.

Carol M. Highsmith Archive/Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (LC-DIG-highsm-12515)






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Can you find 12 fruits and vegetables?