By Danielle Sanders, Managing Editor
President Biden nominated DC Federal Appellate Court Judge, Ketanji Brown Jackson, to the Supreme Court. If confirmed, she will make history as the first Black woman to be seated in the nation’s highest court. Biden stayed true to his campaign promise of nominating a Black woman to the Supreme Court. Ketanji Brown Jackson would be replacing retiring Supreme Court Justice, Stephan Breyer.
The White House issued a statement regarding the President’s nomination, saying, “President Biden sought a candidate with exceptional credentials, unimpeachable character, and unwavering dedication to the rule of law. He also sought a nominee—much like Justice Breyer—who is wise, pragmatic, and has a deep understanding of the Constitution as an enduring charter of liberty. And the President sought an individual who is committed to equal justice under the law and who understands the profound impact that the Supreme Court’s decisions have on the lives of the American people.”
MORE THAN QUALIFIED BACKGROUND
Age 52, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University with a degree in government in 1992. She obtained her JD cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1996. After graduation, she served as a law clerk under retiring Justice Breyer and others. She has experience in the public and private sector working in private practice and as a public defender.
She also brings unique life experiences that shaped her law career. One family member served as a police chief in Miami, and another was sentenced to life in prison under the nation’s “three strikes law” for a non-violent drug-related offense. She encouraged a law firm to take that case pro bono and eventually then-President Obama commuted that life sentence. She is also related by marriage to former Republican House speaker, Paul Ryan.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was nominated to the DC District Court by President Obama and was confirmed in a bi-partisan vote. She often wrote decisions in contrast to the Trump Administration. In 2021, she was nominated to the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit by President Bident. She replaced Judge Merrick Garland, who left the position to become the US Attorney General. While challenged about her rulings against the Trump administration, she was confirmed in a 53-44 vote.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was previously considered as a Supreme Court Justice nominee by President Obama. Her nomination is supported by many civil rights and liberal organizations. The Washington Post said, “Her experience as a public defender has endeared her to the more liberal base of the democratic party.” Judith Browne Dianis, a civil rights lawyer, and executive director of the Advancement Project, says having a Supreme Court Justice with experience as a public defender will make her an “exceptional justice.” “Make no mistake, she will make history as the first Black woman on the Supreme Court, but she will also make history as the first public defender on the Supreme Court – someone who knows and can speak to the experiences of far too many people across the country who often are denied access to true justice.”
EARLY SUPPORT FOR THE SUPREME COURT JUSTICE NOMINEE
Politicians, community organizations, and advocacy groups praised President Biden’s historic nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.
“I commend President Biden on the selection of Ketanji Brown Jackson as his nominee for the Supreme Court, and I congratulate her on this tremendous achievement,” said Jennifer Jones Austin, Vice-Chair, National Action Network. “Not only does Judge Brown Jackson have the legal background that makes her more than qualified to perform the duties of a Supreme Court Justice, but she would bring the Court a distinct and increasingly indispensable perspective on how the laws of this land affect a vital and all too often neglected segment of our population. Not only will she make history as the first Black woman on the Supreme Court, but she will also be the first public defender to serve on the Court.”
Democratic National Committee chair Jaime Harrison said, “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, which 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.”
“We applaud President Biden for nominating Judge Jackson to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Her previous work as a public defender, as an advocate for reforming our criminal sentencing laws, and prior judicial rulings show she will affirm the rights of regular American workers and everyday citizens while holding accountable those who break the law – even the most powerful among us. – American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley
David Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, a leading Black LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, echoed the sentiment, saying, “The nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court is historic – not just because if confirmed she will be the first Black woman to serve on the court but because she is also the first former public defender to be nominated for this role. “Make no mistake, Judge Jackson’s lived, and professional experience make her uniquely qualified for the Supreme Court and her role in bringing equity to sentencing is an important skill set currently missing from the Supreme Court. Jackson’s handling of cases during her time as a public defender showed she won real victories that advanced racial justice and equal treatment under the law in our criminal legal system.”
DESPITE IMPECCABLE QUALIFICATIONS, JUDGE JACKSON FACES INTENSE SCRUTINY
While Judge Jackson enjoys early support of her historic nomination, many are concerned about the potential racist and sexist rhetoric regarding her nomination. In addition, Judge Jackson faces additional scrutiny about her qualifications and record as a Black woman.
Shaunna Thomas, executive director of UltraViolet, a national gender justice advocacy organization, said, “Far before Judge Jackson’s nomination, Republican elected officials and pundits relentlessly attacked the very idea of nominating a Black woman to the Supreme Court. Calling further attention to the right-wing on this matter only gives credence, airtime, and clicks over baseless arguments and talking points, with the potential to spread disinformation.”
The National Urban League issued a statement supporting Judge Jackson’s nomination, saying, “Even as we review her full record, Judge Jackson has already proven she is eminently qualified to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. After graduating from Harvard Law School, Judge Jackson clerked for judges at every level of the federal judiciary, including former Associate Justice Stephen Breyer on the U.S. Supreme Court, and served as a federal public defender. With her extensive experience in both civil and criminal law, Judge Jackson is more than prepared for exemplary service on the nation’s highest court.
THE LONG REACHING IMPACT OF A BLACK WOMAN SERVING ON THE SUPREME COURT
While historic, the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will not push the Supreme Court to a more liberal side. The court still leans right with six conservative judges; however, Judge Jackson’s nomination and potential confirmation could woo Black voters, who put President Biden in office, back to his side.
IL Congressional candidate Kina Collins, said, “From reproductive rights to voting rights, the decisions that are made by the Supreme Court have consistently most acutely impacted the most vulnerable in our country and, historically, that has been Black women. To finally have someone on the highest court who looks like us, and is not scared to fight for us, is a significant step towards a more just court and country. Even after Judge Jackson is confirmed, the Supreme Court will still be controlled by an extreme right-wing majority, and a long way off from being truly representative and reflective of the American people. We must reform the court by expanding it and restoring balance.”
To ensure Judge Jackson’s confirmation, Democrats will need all members on board. While President Biden hopes for bi-partisan support, if all Democratic members of the Senate vote for Judge Jackson’s confirmation, VP Kamala Harris can break a potential deadlock with her vote.
If confirmed, four of the nine Supreme Court judges would be women. In the Supreme Court’s 233-year history, she would be not only the first Black woman Justice, but the first former public defender to sit on the Supreme Court and the second-youngest justice. At only 51 years old, she could potentially impact legal issues impacting the country for decades.
A historic nomination in many ways. The White House says the time is now to confirm Judge Jackson. “Judge Jackson is an exceptionally qualified nominee as well as a historic nominee, and the Senate should move forward with a fair and timely hearing and confirmation.”