In advance of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s announced retirement plan, President Joe Biden nominated Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as his replacement and she was confirmed to that appointment by the Senate last week, the Associated Press reported.
When Jackson does finally ascend to the high court, she will also replace Justice Amy Coney Barrett as the most junior associate justice on the bench, and Barrett recently offered up some words of wisdom and warning for her eventual new colleague.
Being a public figure and dealing with security details
Justice Barrett’s remarks were offered up just a few days before Jackson’s confirmation during an event at the Reagan Presidential Library in response to a question about whether she had any advice to offer a new justice on the Supreme Court.
Barrett first noted that Jackson likely wouldn’t ascend to the bench until October, which would provide her some “lead time” to get acclimated to the new situation that not all new justices are afforded.
“I think one of the difficult things I experienced that I wasn’t really fully prepared for was the shift into being a public figure, and also security is much different now than when I was clerking on the court,” Barrett said, referencing her prior tenure as a clerk to the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
“You know, Justice Scalia did not have security — we all have security details, and that’s different,” she added. “I’ve actually thought about what would I say to a new justice and what to brace for, and I think those are some of the things that are hardest.”
The conversation wasn’t entirely serious, though, as the discussion then turned to the Supreme Court’s cafeteria — which Barrett had previously criticized as a clerk — and how the junior justice is typically assigned a role on the committee that oversees that cafeteria.
Barrett went on to share a humorous anecdote of how she had essentially dodged having to participate in that regard thanks to the fact that the COVID pandemic had largely shuttered the cafeteria and she was thus never actually compelled to attend any committee meetings.
Jackson is not a fully confirmed associate justice just yet
Separate but relatedly, there has already been a bit of controversy and debate over the fact that Jackson was nominated and sworn in by Biden following the Senate’s confirmation vote even though, technically speaking, there is no current vacancy on the court since Breyer won’t step down and retire until the current term is completed this summer.
In that regard, though, the Office of Legal Counsel just published an opinion granting approval for any president to make “prospective” judicial appointments for vacancies that are anticipated to come open during that president’s term.
As such, the confirmation process will remain incomplete and Jackson will be known as a “prospective justice” and not officially an “associate justice” until Breyer formally retires and the anticipated vacancy actually becomes open, which will likely occur in June or July.