Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has been nominated to the Supreme Court by President Biden, potentially making her the first Black woman to serve on the Court. Jackson would be filling the seat of Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, who announced his retirement in January 2022.
Jackson was born to two public school teachers in 1970 and grew up in Miami, Florida. She has stated that her father’s decision to change careers and go to law school inspired her at a young age. Jackson attended Harvard University for both her undergraduate degree and law degree, graduating from Harvard Law School in 1996. From 1999 to 2000, she was a law clerk for Justice Breyer, whose seat she will be filling if confirmed. Jackson was a public defender in the D.C. federal court system from 2005 to 2007. If confirmed, she would be the first public defender to be seated on the Supreme Court. She also served on the US Sentencing Commission from 2010 to 2014. The Sentencing Commission creates sentencing guidelines for the federal court system. In 2013, President Barack Obama appointed Jackson as a judge in the D.C. District Court. In June 2021, President Biden appointed her to the D.C. Court of Appeals.
On February 25, Jackson delivered remarks at the White House. She thanked Justice Breyer for serving as her mentor, stating, “the members of the Senate will decide if I fill your seat, but please know I could never fill your shoes.” She also paid tribute to Judge Constance Baker Motley, the first Black woman to serve as a federal judge. Motley served in the federal district court for the Southern District of New York from 1986 to 2005. Jackson noted that they share a birthday, with the women being born exactly 49 years apart.
Justice Breyer will continue to serve until the end of the Supreme Court’s term in June or July. Jackson will then have to undergo a confirmation hearing in which she is evaluated by the Senate, with a simple majority vote (at least 51 senators) required to confirm her appointment. Confirmation hearings are often settings for partisan conflict, especially since the Senate is currently an even split between Democrats and Republicans. Jackson received bipartisan support for her nomination to the D.C. Appellate Court, with three Republican senators voting to confirm her appointment.