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Supreme Court

Biden Nominates Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to Become First Black Woman on Supreme Court

On February 25, 2022, President Biden nominated Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court, making history as the first African American woman to serve on the highest court of the land. The judge’s appointment comes after the recent retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer, who served on the bench for over twenty-seven years. The justice’s decision to step down allowed Biden to appoint the liberal successor that will serve for years to come.


The President said at a formal White House ceremony on February 25th, “it is my honor to introduce to the country a daughter of former public school teachers, a proven consensus builder, an accomplished lawyer, a distinguished jurist, one of the most -- on one of the nation's most prestigious courts." He further stated that “for too long… our courts haven’t looked like America.” “And I believe it is time that we have a court that reflects the full talents and greatness of our nation with a nominee of extraordinary qualification.” 


In response to the President’s statements, Judge Jackson said that she was “truly humbled” by “the extraordinary honor,” and credited her parents and “the grace of God” for her historic achievement. Jackson currently serves in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit where she was named by President Biden and confirmed by the Senate in 2021. Though prior to her recent nomination and current seat in the Court of Appeals, she was a former clerk to Justice Breyer and acquired over eight years of experience on the federal bench. In addition, the judge has an exemplary legal background as a graduate of Harvard Law School and federal public defender, where she represents everyday working Americans. She remarked last year, “Public service is a core value in my family.” Jackson would be the first federal public defender to serve on the high court bench and the first justice since Thurgood Marshall to have experience in criminal defense. 


Though prior to her judicial career, Mrs. Jackson was born in the District of Columbia and later raised in Miami, Florida. She attended Miami-Dade public schools while her mother worked as a public high school principal, and her father worked as a teacher and later county school board attorney. Members of the Cuban American Bar Association wrote in a letter to President Biden in February: “Her Miami roots will afford her valuable perspective on the rights and lives of the people who come before the court.”


The judge’s family has also had experience in public service, with her two uncles in law enforcement and younger brother in the military. Her husband works as a surgeon in the area near Washington D.C. where they have raised their two daughters. 


Jackson’s former Harvard classmate and current NYU law professor, Rachel Barkow, described her unwavering work ethic, saying: “It’s a story of someone who's always been very hard working, who has not had things handed to her, who has worked for all the things that she's achieved." Her conscientiousness and legal excellency have also been recognized by White House spokesman Andrew Bates, who said that the president is impressed by her "experience in roles at all levels of the justice system, her character and her legal brilliance." As Jackson’s nomination continues to be processed, the White House is expected to highlight her personal story as an exemplification of the American Dream. 


If confirmed to the Supreme Court, Barkow predicted that Judge Jackson would help “dial down the temperature” and appeal “to people of all political stripes.” She stated: “She is not someone who is a firebrand off on her own, creating and doing new things which I don't think she should be doing as a lower court judge.” In addition, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said that the judge will be “respectfully treated and thoroughly vetted.”


As the nominee awaits her confirmation, she concluded: “I can only hope that my life and career, my love of this country and the constitution and my commitment to upholding the rule of law and the sacred principles upon which this great nation was founded, will inspire future generations of Americans.” Thus, the Supreme Court will likely receive a new justice and outstanding representative of the African American community.