Ketanji Brown Jackson sworn in as SCOTUS issues major rulings on climate and immigration

By Maureen Chowdhury, Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal, Elise Hammond and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 6:02 p.m. ET, June 30, 2022
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10:28 a.m. ET, June 30, 2022

Supreme Court curbs EPA’s ability to fight climate change

From CNN's Ariane de Vogue

Emissions rise from the smokestacks of a coal-fired power plant in Castle Dale, Utah.
Emissions rise from the smokestacks of a coal-fired power plant in Castle Dale, Utah. (George Frey/Getty Images/File)

The Supreme Court curbed the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to broadly regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants, a major defeat for the Biden administration's attempts to slash emissions at a moment when scientists are sounding alarms about the accelerating pace of global warming.

In addition, the court cut back the agency's authority in general invoking the so-called "major questions" doctrine — a ruling that will impact the federal government's authority to regulate in other areas of climate policy, as well as regulation of the internet and worker safety. 

The ruling was 6-3. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion for the conservative majority, with the three liberal justices dissenting.

The decision is one of the most consequential cases for climate change and clean air in decades.

9:59 a.m. ET, June 30, 2022

Here are the two big remaining cases the Supreme Court is expected to rule on today

From CNN's Ariane de Vogue

(Patrick Semansky/AP)
(Patrick Semansky/AP)

Although the Supreme Court issued the two most important opinions of the term last week, upending near 50-year-old precedent on abortion and expanding gun rights for the first time in a decade, this blockbuster term is not over.

Still to be decided are two cases, here's a look at what remains:

Immigration: Remain in Mexico

The justices are considering whether the Biden administration can terminate a Trump-era border policy known as "Remain in Mexico." Lower courts have so far blocked Biden from ending the policy.

Under the unprecedented program launched in 2019, the Department of Homeland Security can send certain-non Mexican citizens who entered the United States back to Mexico — instead of detaining them or releasing them into the United States — while their immigration proceedings play out.

Critics call the policy inhumane and say it exposes asylum seekers with credible claims to dangerous and squalid conditions. The case raises questions not only regarding immigration law, but also a president's control over policy and his diplomatic relationships with neighboring countries.

Climate Change: EPA authority to regulate emissions from power plants

The justices will decide a case concerning the EPA's authority to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants, in a dispute that could harm the Biden administration's attempts to slash emissions. It comes at a moment when scientists are sounding alarms about the accelerating pace of global warming.

The court's decision to step in and hear the case concerned environmentalists because there is no rule currently in place. A lower court wiped away a Trump-era rule in 2021 and the Biden administration's EPA is currently working on a new rule.

But the fact that there were enough votes to take up the issue now, struck some as an aggressive grant, signaling the court wants to limit the scope of the EPA's authority even before a new rule is on the books.

9:55 a.m. ET, June 30, 2022

Justice Breyer told White House that Judge Jackson is ready to "take the prescribed oaths"

From CNN's Ariane de Vogue

Stephen Breyer sits with his fellow Supreme Court justices for a group photo in 2018.
Stephen Breyer sits with his fellow Supreme Court justices for a group photo in 2018. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP/File)

Justice Stephen Breyer notified the White House on Wednesday that his retirement will be effective Thursday, June 30, at noon ET.

In a letter to President Joe Biden, Breyer said it had been his "great honor" to participate as a judge in the "effort to maintain our Constitution and the Rule of Law."

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will take the oaths on Thursday to begin her service as the 116th member of the court. Breyer said Wednesday that Jackson is prepared to “take the prescribed oaths."

On his last full day as a sitting justice, Breyer attended a private conference session with his colleagues Wednesday. The justices reviewed a list of pending petitions, some tied to cases in which they had recently ruled, some related to new issues.

Following tradition, Breyer will keep an office at the court, though he will move into smaller chambers

The fact that the court will issue final opinions and orders on the same day reflects a more expedited timeline than past terms. It suggests that the justices — who have been subject to death threats since the release of a draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade are eager for the momentous and divisive term to end as soon as possible.

There are two big cases awaiting resolution concerning the environment and immigration.

Jackson, Breyer's replacement, was confirmed by the Senate in April by a vote of 53-47, with three Republicans joining Democrats to vote in favor. Though her addition to the bench doesn't change the ideological balance of the court, Jackson will be the first Black woman to serve on the highest court in the nation.

9:47 a.m. ET, June 30, 2022

Biden indicates he supports filibuster carve out for abortion and privacy rights

From CNN's Betsy Klein

President Joe Biden speaks at a news conference in Madrid on Thursday.
President Joe Biden speaks at a news conference in Madrid on Thursday. (Susan Walsh/AP)

President Biden indicated Thursday that he supports an exception to the 60-vote threshold needed to advance legislation in the Senate to codify abortion and privacy rights following the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade.

“I believe we have to codify Roe v Wade into law. And the way to do that is to make sure that Congress votes to do that. And if the filibuster gets in the way, it's like voting rights, it should be, we provide an exception for this. The exception – the required exception of the filibuster for this action to deal with the Supreme Court decision,” Biden told reporters at a press conference in Madrid, Spain, Thursday.

Pressed moments later to clarify that he was opening to changing filibuster rules for those issues, Biden said, “Right to privacy, not just abortion rights, but yes, abortion rights.”

Codifying Roe v. Wade requires 60 votes in the Senate, which it does not currently have, unless the filibuster rules are changed to require a simple majority. Key moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have expressed opposition to changing filibuster rules. Manchin, however, is open to codifying Roe v. Wade legislatively. 

Biden also said he would be meeting with governors Friday to receive their feedback and would have “announcements to make then.”

“The first and foremost thing we should do is make it clear how outrageous this decision was and how much it impacts not just on a woman's right to choose, which is a critical, critical piece, but on privacy generally, on privacy generally. And so I'm going to be talking to the governors as to what actions they think I should be taking, as well. But the most important thing to be clear about: we have to change, I believe we have to codify Roe v Wade in the law,” he said.

More context: There has been no indication those two senators, Manchin and Sinema, have or will change their positions.

But Biden’s call does dovetail with the White House efforts to ramp up the urgency in advance of the midterm elections – and it comes as national Democrats have increasingly raised concerns that the Biden administration is not doing enough to address – and fight – the Supreme Court decision.

Despite flagging poll numbers and poor prospects in holding onto the Democratic majority in the House, the White House sees a path to gaining Senate seats to increase their narrow majority.

Holding their current seats and adding at least two new Democratic senators could, in theory, create the pathway to securing the votes for a Senate rules change.

10:03 a.m. ET, June 30, 2022

Biden calls Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade "outrageous behavior"

From CNN's Betsy Klein

President Biden disputed characterizations that America is going backward amid a new low approval rating, inflation, and other domestic issues. Asked how he reconciles those problems to the world leaders he’s met with this week during the NATO summit, Biden pushed back, but conceded the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade was “destabilizing" and called the court's actions "outrageous behavior."

“They do not think that. You haven't found one person, one world leader to say America's going backwards. America is better positioned to lead the world than we ever have been. We have the strongest economy in the world. Our inflation rates are lower than other nations in the world. The one thing that has been destabilizing is the outrageous behavior of the Supreme Court the United States in overruling, not only Roe v. Wade, but essentially challenging the right to privacy,” he said at a news conference Thursday in Madrid.

Biden continued to lambast the court’s decision.

“We've been a leader in the world in terms of personal rights and privacy rights. And it is a mistake, in my view, for the Supreme Court to do what it did,” he said, later calling on Congress to codify the landmark women’s reproductive rights ruling.  

2:41 p.m. ET, June 30, 2022

Ketanji Brown Jackson joins a Supreme Court in turmoil

From CNN's Ariane de Vogue

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is set to join the Supreme Court on Thursday, making history as the first female African-American justice and beginning what could be a decades-long tenure.

But as she starts her job, the court is in turmoil.

The country is reeling from the aftereffects of the most consequential term in decades, where the majority upended a half century of law on abortion by reversing Roe v. Wade and expanded gun rights for the first time in more than a decade.  

The justices work to maintain civility in public, but this term's opinions revealed an underbelly of rage. Not only were the justices attacking the reasoning of their opponents in the case at hand, but they renewed grievances aired in previous opinions. 

Things will not calm down anytime soon. New challenges related to women's reproductive health, the Second Amendment and even same-sex marriage are likely to swirl in state and federal courts across the country. Related disputes will make their way back to the high court in some form, greeting the nine justices who are irretrievably divided on many social issues.

After her confirmation, in a stirring speech in the South Lawn in April, Jackson noted that in her family "it took just one generation to go from segregation to the Supreme Court of the United States." 

"It is an honor of a lifetime," she said, "to have this chance to join the court, to promote the rule of law at the highest level, and to do my part to carry out shared project of democracy and equal justice under law forward, into the future." 

Those who know Jackson say her time serving on the lower courts has prepared her for the high court and a divided multi-member body. They believe her fractious confirmation hearings where Republicans accused her of being soft on child porn crimes opened her eyes to the depth of division in the country at a fraught moment in history.  

"She has reached the apex of her profession, but she is walking into a role in which it is not clear that she will have much influence, joining co-workers who clearly have deteriorating relationships," said one friend who asked for anonymity.    

Read more here.

2:42 p.m. ET, June 30, 2022

Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed in April. Here are the key things to remember about the vote.

From CNN's Sam Woodward, Clare Foran, Ted Barrett and Ali Zaslav

President Joe Biden talks with Ketanji Brown Jackson as they watch the Senate vote on her confirmation in April.
President Joe Biden talks with Ketanji Brown Jackson as they watch the Senate vote on her confirmation in April. (Susan Walsh/AP)

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will be sworn in as an associate justice Thursday following the retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer. The Supreme Court is expected to hold onto its right-wing tilt, even with the addition of a liberal justice.

Here are some things to remember about her confirmation process:

  • Jackson was confirmed by a vote of 53 yeas and 47 nays. Three GOP senators crossed party lines and voted for her: Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
  • Jackson will be the first ever Black woman to sit on the bench. Biden had said during his 2020 presidential campaign that he was committed to nominating a Black woman to the Supreme Court if elected.
  • Ahead of the final vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the moment a "joyous, momentous, groundbreaking day." Schumer went on to say, "In the 233-year history of the Supreme Court, never, never has a Black woman held the title of Justice. Ketanji Brown Jackson will be the first, and I believe the first of more to come."
  • The Senate chamber was packed for the Senate vote, with most senators seated at their desks. The vote initially proceeded quickly as a result but was later held open for some time when it became clear that GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky was the only senator who had not voted. The chamber waited for him to arrive and vote before it was gaveled closed.
  • Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Black woman to serve as vice president, presided over the chamber during the historic vote in her capacity as president of the Senate.
12:35 p.m. ET, June 30, 2022

Breyer, who was appointed in 1994, has been a consistent liberal vote on the Supreme Court

From CNN's Ariane de Vogue

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announces his retirement at the White House in January.
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announces his retirement at the White House in January. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Justice Stephen Breyer, who was appointed to the court in 1994 by then-President Bill Clinton, announced his retirement plans in January. The highly anticipated decision was met with a collective sigh of relief by Democrats, who feared the possibility of losing the seat to a future Republican president should the 83-year-old jurist ignore an intense pressure campaign from the left, which urged him to leave the court while Biden had a clear path to replace him.

A consistent liberal vote on the Supreme Court with an unflappable belief in the US system of government and a pragmatic view of the law, Breyer has sought to focus the law on how it could work for the average citizen. He was no firebrand and was quick to say that the Supreme Court couldn't solve all of society's problems. He often stressed that the court shouldn't be seen as part of the political branches but recognized that certain opinions could be unpopular.

In his later years on the court, he was best known for a dissent he wrote in 2015 in a case concerning execution by lethal injection. He took the opportunity to write separately and suggest to the court that it take up the constitutionality of the death penalty.

In the opinion, Breyer wrote that after spending many years on the court reviewing countless death penalty cases, he had come to question whether innocent people had been executed. He also feared that the penalty was being applied arbitrarily across the country. He noted that, in some cases, death row inmates could spend years — sometimes in solitary confinement — waiting for their executions.

11:38 a.m. ET, June 30, 2022

This is how Ketanji Brown Jackson has said she approaches legal decisions

From CNN's Tierney Sneed

Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies during her confirmation hearing in March.
Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies during her confirmation hearing in March. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Ketanji Brown Jackson is entering the US Supreme Court at the end of a historic session — which included the court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. She will be sworn in today, following the retirement of Justice Steven Breyer.

During her confirmation hearings a few months ago, Jackson gave new details about the way she approaches her job and the "methodology" she uses for deciding a case.

"I am acutely aware that as a judge in our system I have limited power and I am trying in every case to stay in my lane," she said.

The three-step process she described involved clearing her mind of any preconceived notions about the case, receiving the various inputs — the written briefs, the factual record, the hearings — she'll need to decide a case, and embarking on an interpretation of the law that hews to "the constraints" on her role as a judge.

She said she was trying to "to figure out what the words mean as they were intended by the people who wrote them."

This description of her methodology was not enough to satisfy Republican questions about her judicial philosophy.

But what does this term mean? It refers to the type of framework a judge uses to analyze a case of constitutional interpretation. An originalist approach, which is favored by conservatives, seeks to interpret the Constitution by how the framers would have understood the words at the time they were drafted.

Some progressives have sought to chart what has been called a "Living Constitution" approach, which seeks to interpret the general principles in the Constitution in a way that is applicable to contemporary circumstances.

Even as she answered Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse's questions about the dueling approaches, Jackson declined to explicitly align herself with one or the other, noting that constitutional interpretation did not come up every often in the cases she was deciding as a lower court judge.