President Joe Biden has kept his word to the nation and nominated a Black woman as the next justice to sit in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Despite considerable GOP pushback, mostly blasting Biden for using race and gender as qualifiers for the nominee, the president introduced federal appeals court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on Friday, Feb. 25, as his nominee to replace Justice Stephen Breyer, who has announced he is retiring this year.
Brown Jackson was mentored by Breyer as one of his former law clerks at the high court, and The Boston Globe describes Breyer as considering her “family.”
The 51-year-old U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit judge is one of 120 judges, lawyers, and executives across the country, and two members of the Biden administration — National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and White House antitrust expert Tim Wu — that have served as clerks for Breyer over the past three decades.
However, it is her own hustle and drive that has lifted her to the top of her judicial career.
Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in south Miami, Jackson graduated from Harvard College in 1992 and Harvard Law School in 1996 with honors. She started her clerkship under two lower court judges before starting under Breyer, three years later, in 1999.
Since serving as a clerk, her career has been expanded across several lanes within the legal profession including serving as a federal appellate judge, a federal district court judge, a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, an attorney in private practice, as a federal public defender and has been confirmed by the Senate on a bipartisan basis three times — most recently last year for her current seat.
When she was up for a position with the Sentencing Commission, Breyer advocated for her with two short words, “Hire Her.”
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton said the following about Brown Jackson’s recommendations, “The best evidence in personnel selection of any kind is how those who have worked with the candidate or observed her view her.”
“I will not amaze you or bore you with the consistent superlatives used to describe her work and Ms. Jackson’s personal disposition. I will leave you with one,” a 2012 Congressional Record recorded the representative as saying.
“The Chair of the Commission spoke to Justice Breyer, and I am quoting her now. The first words out of his mouth when he picked up the phone were, ‘Hire her.’ He went on to say, and she is quoting: ‘She is great, she is brilliant. She is a mix of common sense, thoughtfulness. She is decent. She is very smart and has the mix of skills and experience we need on the bench.’ He endorsed her enthusiastically.”
Breyer described during her 2013 federal judge swearing-in ceremony how Jackson’s experiences and how she processes the law make her an extraordinary judge. He said, “She sees things from different points of view, and she sees somebody else’s point of view and understands it.”
As a former federal public defender, Jackson would bring a unique perspective to a high court that has not a single justice with criminal defense experience since the retirement of Thurgood Marshall in 1991.
Standing next to Biden on Friday, as she was introduced at the White House as the nominee, 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.”
Republican lawmakers, like Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas were critical of Biden’s decision to select a Black woman as the next justice, and by Friday GOP senators already were signaling their disapproval of the nomination. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina tweeted Friday that Jackson was a “radical left” choice.
Republicans in the Senate do not have the power to block Jackson’s confirmation if there are no defections to their from the Democratic side of the aisle.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York was quick to indicate his support for Jackson, saying in a statement: “With her exceptional qualifications and record of evenhandedness, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will be a justice who will uphold the Constitution and protect the rights of all Americans, including the voiceless and vulnerable. The historic nomination of Judge Jackson is an important step toward ensuring the Supreme Court reflects the nation as a whole.”
Senate confirmation hearings for Jackson could begin as early as mid-March.
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