Ketanji Brown Jackson, nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court
Ketanji Brown Jackson, nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court

After much con­tem­pla­tion, Pres­i­dent Joe Biden has cho­sen a nom­i­nee to suc­ceed retir­ing Jus­tice Stephen Brey­er, the White House announced this morning.

Ketan­ji Brown Jack­son, fifty-one, is Biden’s pick.

She would be the first Black woman to join the Supreme Court in its entire history.

Jack­son is cur­rent­ly a judge on the Unit­ed States Court of Appeals for the Dis­trict of Colum­bia Cir­cuit and one of three Black women that Biden had been con­sid­er­ing as final­ists for the vacan­cy. (The oth­er final­ists were report­ed­ly Leon­dra Kruger of Cal­i­for­nia and Michelle Childs of South Carolina.)

Jack­son was nom­i­nat­ed by Biden and con­firmed to her cur­rent posi­tion on the D.C. Cir­cuit just last year (assum­ing office on June 17th, 2021) so the Pres­i­dent already knows her and has a high opin­ion of her. Jack­son was Attor­ney Gen­er­al Mer­rick Gar­land’s replace­ment. With Jack­son now head­ed to the Unit­ed States Supreme Court, that spot on the D.C. Cir­cuit Court will need to be filled again.

Before join­ing the D.C. Cir­cuit, Jack­son served for eight years on the Unit­ed States Dis­trict Court for the Dis­trict of Colum­bia, which might sound like the same thing, but is actu­al­ly a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent court. Jack­son was nom­i­nat­ed by Pres­i­dent Oba­ma for that posi­tion in late 2012 and con­firmed by a voice vote in the Sen­ate in ear­ly 2013. As it so hap­pens, Jus­tice Brey­er (who she has now been nom­i­nat­ed to replace!) con­duct­ed her swear­ing-in sev­er­al weeks lat­er, in May of 2013.

Here’s the biog­ra­phy of Jack­son pro­vid­ed by the White House:

Judge Ketan­ji Brown Jackson
Judge Jack­son has devot­ed the major­i­ty of her career to serv­ing the pub­lic — as a U.S. Sen­tenc­ing Com­mis­sion lawyer and com­mis­sion­er; as a fed­er­al pub­lic defend­er; and as a fed­er­al judge. Judge Jack­son cur­rent­ly serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Cir­cuit. From 2013 to 2021, she served as a Unit­ed States Dis­trict Judge for the Dis­trict of Colum­bia. She has been con­firmed by the Sen­ate on a bipar­ti­san basis three times – twice as judge and once to serve on the U.S. Sen­tenc­ing Commission.

Judge Jack­son was born in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. and grew up in Mia­mi, Flori­da. Her par­ents attend­ed seg­re­gat­ed pri­ma­ry schools in the South, then attend­ed His­tor­i­cal­ly Black Col­leges and Uni­ver­si­ties. Both start­ed their careers as pub­lic school teach­ers and became lead­ers and admin­is­tra­tors in the Mia­mi-Dade Coun­ty Pub­lic Schools. When Judge Jack­son told her high school guid­ance coun­selor she want­ed to attend­ed Har­vard, the guid­ance coun­selor warned that Judge Jack­son should not to set her sights “so high.” That didn’t stop Judge Jack­son. She grad­u­at­ed magna cum laude from Har­vard Col­lege, then attend­ed Har­vard Law School, where she grad­u­at­ed cum laude and was an edi­tor of the Har­vard Law Review.

After law school, Judge Jack­son served in Jus­tice Breyer’s cham­bers as a law clerk. Judge Jack­son served as a fed­er­al pub­lic defend­er from 2005 to 2007, rep­re­sent­ing defen­dants on appeal who did not have the means to pay for a lawyer. If con­firmed, she would be the first for­mer fed­er­al pub­lic defend­er to serve on the Supreme Court.

Pri­or to serv­ing as a judge, Judge Jack­son fol­lowed in the foot­steps of her men­tor Jus­tice Brey­er by work­ing on the U.S. Sen­tenc­ing Commission—an impor­tant body, bipar­ti­san by design, that Pres­i­dent Biden fought to cre­ate as a mem­ber of the U.S. Sen­ate. Her work there focused on reduc­ing unwar­rant­ed sen­tenc­ing dis­par­i­ties and ensur­ing that fed­er­al sen­tences were just and proportionate.

Judge Jack­son lives with her hus­band, Patrick, who serves as Chief of the Divi­sion of Gen­er­al Surgery at George­town Uni­ver­si­ty Hos­pi­tal, and two daugh­ters, in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

The ini­tial response to Jack­son’s selec­tion among Democ­rats and pro­gres­sive orga­ni­za­tions has been over­whelm­ing­ly positive.

“Today, Pres­i­dent Biden deliv­ered on yet anoth­er cam­paign promise,” said DNC Chair Jaime Har­ri­son. “In doing so, he has made his­to­ry. By announc­ing he will nom­i­nate Judge Jack­son to the Supreme Court, Pres­i­dent Biden has put for­ward an excep­tion­al­ly qual­i­fied, tal­ent­ed jurist to serve on our nation’s high­est court.”

“Judge Jack­son will bring a wealth of knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence to the Court. Her expe­ri­ence as a pub­lic defend­er will add a vital per­spec­tive. In short, Judge Jack­son will live up to the lega­cy of Jus­tice Brey­er and the oth­er qual­i­fied jurists that have served and con­tin­ue to serve on the Supreme Court.”

“I ful­ly expect the Sen­ate will agree and con­firm Judge Jack­son with bipar­ti­san sup­port — as they have three times before.”

“Judge Jack­son will also shat­ter a long­stand­ing glass ceil­ing in the judi­cial branch of our gov­ern­ment. America’s great­est strength is the nation’s diver­si­ty. Our gov­ern­ment works best when it rep­re­sents and reflects the diverse peo­ple it serves. For too long, Black women have not seen them­selves rep­re­sent­ed on our nation’s high­est court — a court that ren­ders deci­sions that affect their dai­ly lives on every­thing from repro­duc­tive free­dom to vot­ing rights.”

“When the Sen­ate con­firms Judge Jack­son, that will final­ly change. I am so excit­ed for the coun­try to be remind­ed once again that there is noth­ing a Black woman can­not do. She can be vice pres­i­dent. She can shape the future of our nation. And yes, she can serve on the Supreme Court.”

“I look for­ward to meet­ing with Judge Ketan­ji Brown Jack­son as soon as pos­si­ble and I applaud Pres­i­dent Biden for this his­toric nom­i­na­tion — I pre­vi­ous­ly vot­ed to con­firm Judge Jack­son to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Cir­cuit and have been excep­tion­al­ly impressed by her back­ground, impres­sive cre­den­tials and sin­gu­lar ded­i­ca­tion to the law,” said Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray, D‑Washington.

“In par­tic­u­lar, her back­ground as a pub­lic defend­er, mem­ber of the U.S. Sen­tenc­ing Com­mis­sion, and daugh­ter of pub­lic school teach­ers would bring a pow­er­ful per­spec­tive to the high­est court in the land.”

“It’s impor­tant to me that the Sen­ate con­firm a can­di­date who will uphold the rights and lib­er­ties of all Amer­i­cans — espe­cial­ly giv­en the crit­i­cal cas­es that are com­ing before the Court con­cern­ing work­ers’ rights, repro­duc­tive rights, vot­ing rights, trib­al rights, and oth­er issues that mat­ter deeply to the Amer­i­can people.

“As with any Supreme Court nom­i­nee, I will care­ful­ly con­sid­er the judg­ment and qual­i­fi­ca­tions of Judge Jack­son for this life­time appointment.”

“I am ready to move as quick­ly as pos­si­ble as the con­fir­ma­tion process begins in earnest and I look for­ward to a fair and delib­er­ate process.”

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson
Offi­cial Por­trait of the Hon­or­able Ketan­ji Brown Jack­son, Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Dis­trict of Colum­bia Circuit

“Judge Ketan­ji Brown Jack­son is emi­nent­ly qual­i­fied to serve on the Supreme Court, with more than a decade on the fed­er­al bench and dis­tin­guished ser­vice as a pub­lic defend­er and in pri­vate prac­tice,” said Sen­a­tor Ron Wyden, D‑Oregon.

“At a time when the six Repub­li­cans on the Supreme Court are re-writ­ing the law to serve the inter­ests of the Repub­li­can Par­ty, from gut­ting the Vot­ing Rights Act in the mid­dle of the night to block­ing pub­lic health mea­sures in a once-in-a-cen­tu­ry pan­dem­ic, Judge Ketan­ji Brown Jack­son will be an impor­tant voice on the Court.”

“With the nom­i­na­tion of Ketan­ji Brown Jack­son to the Supreme Court, Pres­i­dent Biden is mak­ing his­to­ry while also bring­ing the High Court clos­er to the peo­ple it serves,” said NextGen Amer­i­ca Pres­i­dent Cristi­na Tzintzún Ramirez.

“Judge Jack­son has devot­ed her career to advanc­ing labor rights, racial jus­tice and crim­i­nal jus­tice reform. Pri­or to becom­ing a fed­er­al judge, she served as a pub­lic defend­er and the vice chair of the U.S. Sen­tenc­ing Com­mis­sion, expe­ri­ences in which she saw first­hand the way our jus­tice sys­tem works — and doesn’t work — for every­day Amer­i­cans. Her legal back­ground, root­ed in the real expe­ri­ences of real peo­ple, is exact­ly what we need on the nation’s high­est court.”

“This nom­i­na­tion is not a hard deci­sion for the Sen­ate. The Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee and the full Sen­ate should move quick­ly to con­firm Judge Jack­son and bring her pas­sion, intel­li­gence and expe­ri­ence to the Unit­ed States Supreme Court.”

“At a time when our nation’s bedrock cli­mate laws are under attack in the courts, the Supreme Court needs jus­tices who are pre­pared to uphold decades of prece­dent,” said Ever­green Action Chief of Staff Lena Moffitt.

“By nom­i­nat­ing Ken­ta­ji Brown Jack­son, Pres­i­dent Biden is mak­ing good on a key cam­paign promise that will have long term impacts for envi­ron­men­tal jus­tice, clean ener­gy, and our cli­mate. Judge Jack­son is a well-qual­i­fied jurist with a strong record, and, as the first Black woman ever appoint­ed to the court, she will bring a long-over­due per­spec­tive to the bench.”

“Pres­i­dent Biden’s nom­i­na­tion of Judge Jack­son comes just three days before oral argu­ments in the West Vir­ginia v. EPA case that threat­ens to gut the Clean Air Act. The stakes for our plan­et are high­er than they’ve ever been. Judge Jackson’s nom­i­na­tion will not shift the bal­ance of the court or take back the seat that was stolen by Sen­ate Repub­li­cans, but she can and must be a cham­pi­on for the pub­lic inter­est in the face of esca­lat­ing attacks from cor­po­rate pol­luters and their allies.”

Few Repub­li­cans are expect­ed to vote for Jack­son’s nom­i­na­tion, and it’s pos­si­ble that none will. The Repub­li­cans most like­ly to vote yea are Susan Collins and Lisa Murkows­ki. Beyond that, it’s hard to see Jack­son get­ting much support.

Collins and Murkows­ki haven’t yet react­ed to Jack­son’s nomination.

The North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute sup­ports and com­mends this nom­i­na­tion. We believe Ketan­ji Brown Jack­son will make an excel­lent Supreme Court jus­tice, and we’re excit­ed to see her join the bench along­side Jus­tices Sonia Sotomay­or and Ele­na Kagan, who were appoint­ed by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

Pres­i­dent Biden is plan­ning to intro­duce Jack­son as his pick in a cou­ple of hours. If you’d like to watch, that event will be broad­cast through

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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