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Ketanji Brown Jackson

If confirmed, Brown Jackson will be the first Black woman and first former federal public defender to serve on the Supreme Court.

President Joe Biden will nominate federal Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, a former public defender, to replace Justice Stephen Breyer on the U.S. Supreme Court, according to reports on Friday—a decision that drew immediate praise from progressives.

"Not only will Jackson make history as the first Black woman to serve on the court, her nomination will be a breakthrough moment in the effort to bring professional diversity to all levels of the judiciary," said Brian Fallon, executive director of Demand Justice.

Biden called Jackson "one of our nation's brightest legal minds" and expressed confidence that she "will be an exceptional justice.

Jackson currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. As Common Dreamsreported earlier this month, the judge spent two years as a public defender, an experience she credited with pushing her to engage directly with defendants in criminal trials as a trial judge.

"I speak to them directly," Jackson said last year at her confirmation hearing for her current seat. "I want them to know what is going on."

If confirmed, Jackson would be the first Supreme Court justice with experience in criminal defense since Justice Thurgood Marshall.

Christina Harvey, executive director of Stand Up America, called the judge "a brilliant legal mind and a staunch advocate for improving our justice system."

As the first Black woman to sit on the nation's highest court, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's confirmation to SCOTUS will be a milestone that is long overdue.

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"As a former public defender, Judge Jackson knows exactly how rigged our courts really are," Harvey said.

She also served as vice chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, and during her tenure the panel enacted several amendments to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, including allowing some people convicted of crack-cocaine offenses to seek less harsh sentences.

Jackson was confirmed to the D.C. Circuit appeals court with the support of three Republicans—Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

"Judge Jackson's extraordinary breadth of experience at all levels of the judiciary, including on the nation's second-highest court, will make her one of the most qualified nominees ever," said Fallon. "Her unassailable credentials and strong track record of gaining bipartisan support mean the Senate should act swiftly to confirm her."

The National Organization for Women (NOW) said despite the judge's history of garnering bipartisan support, it was preparing to fight "misogyny, racism, and lies" from the Republican Party ahead of Jackson's confirmation hearing, which Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said would begin promptly.

"Today, we celebrate, and prepare for what will inevitably be a concerted and ugly campaign to oppose this nomination," said NOW President Christian Nunes. "But we know Judge Jackson has an impeccable record as a fair, knowledgeable and empathetic jurist who evaluates the law holistically to make the justice system more accessible for those it serves."

"As the first Black woman to sit on the nation's highest court, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's confirmation to SCOTUS will be a milestone that is long overdue," Nunes added. "She will be an advocate for justice and for the intersectional issues that matter to NOW—and for the millions who finally have a Supreme Court that is beginning to look like America."

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Rep. Cori Brown (D-Mo.), who has called on the president to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court "who will insist on racial, environmental, social, disability, and economic justice," applauded Jackson's historic nomination.

Biden "has met the moment" with his choice, Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) added.

Julia Conley
Common Dreams