“I’m looking forward to making sure there’s a black woman on the Supreme Court,” President Biden pledged during a presidential debate in February 2020. Two years later, in February 2022, he made good on that pledge by nominating Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. Jackson, a black woman, currently serves as a federal appeals court judge and is a former public defender.
“I believe it’s time that we have a court that reflects the full talents and greatness of our nation.”
When introducing Jackson at the White House, Biden praised Jackson’s “pragmatic understanding that the law must work for the American people” and said she “strives to be fair, to get it right, to do justice.”. Nodding to the historic lack of diversity on the Supreme Court, he declared, “I believe it’s time that we have a court that reflects the full talents and greatness of our nation.”
During her remarks, Jackson said, “If I’m fortunate enough to be confirmed as the next associate justice of the Supreme Court United States, 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.”
Jackson would be the third black member of the Supreme Court in history and the second Black member of the current court (Justice Clarence Thomas, a conservative, is the first). She would be the sixth woman on the court in history and the fourth woman on the current court, as well. If appointed, she would replace Justice Stephen Breyer, a liberal, who is retiring, so she won’t change the court’s 6-3 conserative tilt.
Jackson’s parents attended segregated elementary schools and historically black colleges. They both started out as public school teachers but Jackson’s father later attended law school. She was born in Washington D.C. and grew up in Miami, where she was elected “mayor” of Palmetto Junior High and Student Body President of Miami Palmetto Senior High. She was a speech and debate champion, but when she told her counselor she wanted to go to Harvard, her counselor told her not to set her sights so high.
Jackson wasn’t deterred, however. She attended Harvard College and graduated magna cum laude. She then attended Harvard Law School, where she became an editor of the Harvard Law Review and graduated cum laude as well.
She has served as Justice Breyer’s law clerk, a public defender, Vice Chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, a judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, and a judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Her work as Justice Breyer’s law clerk added to the growing trend of clerks out of law school later becoming members of the Supreme Court.
The Senate, where the Democrats just narrowly hold the majority (50-50 with Vice President Harris as the Democrat tie-breaker), still has to confirm Jackson. Hearings began March 21st and lasted four days. The first day was reserved for opening statements from senators and Jackson, the second and third for questioning Jackson. The fourth day was reserved for testimony from the American Bar Association and outside witnesses who knew Jackson personally. The Senate Judiciary Committee (which is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans with 11 members from each party) have to consider and investigate Jackson before deciding whether or not to send her to the full Senate for a vote. Early April is the goal for Senate confirmation.
Jackson has already begun meeting with senators from both parties including the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), and Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the top Republican on the committee. She’s also met with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), Senator Susan Collin (R-Maine), and Senator Rick Scott (R-Florida).
With the Senate held so narrowly by Democrats (two of whom, Senator Krysten Sinema and Senator Joe Manchin, have gained a reputation for voting with Republicans and stalling Biden’s agenda), getting Jackson on the Supreme Court looked somewhat challenging. Sen. Mitch McConnell has already called her the “choice of far-left dark-money groups'' and “soft on crime.” However, Senator Susan Collins, Senator Lisa Murkowsky, and Senator Mitch Romney have indicated their support for Jackson. However, there exists enough Democratic support and moderate Republican support for her confirmation to go through. The nation’s trend of approving federal judges regardless of political affiliation continues despite our partisan environment.
In the words of Sen. Dick Durbin, the process should be “fair, timely, and professional” and both sides should “keep this at a high level of discourse” while “considering issues of great constitutional importance.”