Three times the Senate has confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson – twice unanimously.
Now, an evenly divided Senate will face the task of confirming Judge Jackson to the highest court in America and, in the process, make her the first Black woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.
On Friday, February 25, President Joe Biden made Judge Jackson his choice to succeed Justice Stephen Breyer, who announced his retirement in January.
“It’s because of Judge Brown Jackson’s experience in roles at all levels of the justice system, her character, and her legal brilliance that President Biden nominated her to the D.C. Circuit Court, after which she earned her third Senate confirmation,” White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates wrote in an earlier statement.
While on the campaign trail two years ago, Candidate Joe Biden pledged to nominate to the Supreme Court the first Black woman. President Biden has kept that promise.
Since Justice Breyer’s retirement announcement, the President maintained his commitment despite expected Republican pushback.
Administration sources said after interviewing candidates, the President narrowed his choices to three finalists:
Judge Jackson, Leondra Kruger, the California Supreme Court justice; and J. Michelle Childs, the judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina.
While many viewed Kruge as a dark horse, Childs enjoyed the support of Democratic powerbroker Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina.
However, Judge Jackson’s experience and the three previous Senate confirmations made her nearly a no-brainer for a President who desperately needs a victory in a divided country.
More than 170 Black Harvard alumni recently submitted a letter to the White House asking that President Biden select Judge Jackson.
Additionally, the prominent Florida-based Cuban American Bar Association, its board members, and past presidents sent a note to the White House supporting Judge Jackson’s nomination.
Born in D.C., the 51-year-old jurist grew up in Florida and went to high school in Miami. “Judge Brown Jackson spent her formative years in Miami-Dade County, still has family in Miami, and is a testament to the outstanding capacity of the Miami-Dade County public schools,” read a letter signed by more than 30 current and past leaders from the association.
“She is plainly exceedingly well qualified to assume the awesome responsibilities of a Supreme Court Justice, and her Miami roots will afford her a valuable perspective on the rights and lives of the people who come before the court.”
The letter added that Biden’s selection of Jackson “would be a lasting honor to this community and a powerful example of the value of diversity in the American justice system.”
Comparatively, the Harvard letter also expounded the virtues of Judge Brown Jackson.
“We are Black alumni of Harvard University, and we write to urge you to nominate Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to be the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States,” the letter stated.
“We represent a broad cross-section of America. We are civic and corporate leaders, scientists, artists, entrepreneurs, public school teachers, professors, doctors, lawyers, and stay-at-home parents, among others.”
Judge Brown Jackson ascended to her current position in June 2021. She served as a United States District Judge, vice-chair, and commissioner on the United States Sentencing Commission.
The 51-year-old District native, who shares two children with her husband Patrick Jackson, worked in civil and criminal appellate litigation in both state and federal courts for Morrison & Foerster LLP.
Judge Brown Jackson also served as an assistant federal public defender in the appeals division of the Office of the Public Defender in D.C.
She served as a law clerk for three federal judges – Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer, Judge Bruce Selya, and Judge Patti Saris.
Though the selection represents a historic moment in American history, the court will maintain its 6-3 conservative edge as it tackles high-profile and controversial cases, including gun rights, religious liberty, and abortion.
“Judge Katanji Brown Jackson will fight for African Americans and other communities of color. We haven’t had this on the Supreme Court since Justice Thurgood Marshall,” said National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr.
“This is a great day for African American women and for all others who believe in equality and justice,” added NNPA Chair Karen Carter Richards. “Judge Katanji Brown Jackson is not only the best-qualified candidate, but she also brings a perspective that is not present currently on the Supreme Court. The NNPA salutes President Biden for this historic nomination.”
Justice Clarence Thomas, a Black conservative, had never aligned himself with mainstream African American issues.
Judge Jackson once took Justice Thomas to task, telling him, “I don’t understand you.”
Candidly, Judge Jackson remarked toward Justice Thomas during a lunch meeting two decades ago, “You sound like my parents. You sound like the people I grew up with.”
She said the “lessons he tended to draw from the experiences of the segregated South seemed to be different than those of everybody I know.”
With a 50-50 Senate, Democrats do not need Republican help to confirm Judge Jackson.
Democrats can accomplish the historic confirmation with their 50 votes and Vice President Harris breaking a deadlock.
Three Republican senators – Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Susan Collins of Maine – supported Judge Jackson when the jurist earned confirmation to the appellate court.
Among Judge Jackson’s more notable rulings were Congress’ ability to investigate the White House. She ordered the disclosure of certain documents by former President Donald Trump related to the January 6 insurrection.
Jackson was born in Washington, D.C., but grew up near Miami in Florida. She was a member of the debate team at Miami Palmetto Senior High School before earning her undergraduate degree and a law degree at Harvard.
During a 2021 confirmation hearing for the appellate court, Judge Jackson noted her background as a defense attorney and shared that her parents were public servants.
“I come from a background of public service. My parents were in public service, and my brother was a police officer and, in the military,” Judge Jackson remarked.
“Being in the public defenders’ office felt very much like the opportunity to help with my skills and talents,” she noted.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he would seek to push the nomination through quickly.
“Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has a spectacular record impeccable credentials, and her perspective will be a breath of fresh air on the court. She is exceptionally qualified to serve on the Supreme Court,” said Congresswoman Val Demings (D-Fla.).
“In the coming years, the Supreme Court is likely to hear cases that may determine the long-term direction of American life and the safety and constitutional rights of every American. Judge Jackson has demonstrated throughout her career that she will be impartial, meticulous, and will put the law and Constitution first in every case,” Congresswoman Demings continued.
“In less partisan times, she is the kind of nominee who might have been confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate. I expect every member of the Senate to give Judge Jackson full and fair consideration. This remarkable Floridian should be confirmed without delay.”
Marcella Howell, President and CEO of In Our Own Voice: National Reproductive Justice Agenda, called Judge Jackson highly qualified with a proven record of fighting for human and civil rights.
“The U.S. Supreme Court should reflect the values and lived experiences of all Americans, not just the politics of a few,” Howell stated.
“This historic nomination is an important step in that direction. Ketanji Brown Jackson can make that a reality, and we urge the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to immediately hold hearings. We call on the U.S. Senate to bring the nomination to a vote without delay.”