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 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 whitehouse.gov.