On Friday, February 25, President Joe Biden nominated Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to become the 116th Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. If confirmed, Jackson, 51, will be the first Black woman to serve as a justice, and only the sixth woman to serve on the nation’s highest court.
Biden’s nomination comes months after vetting candidates and following Justice Stephen Breyer’s announcement in late January to retire at the end of the current court term provided his successor is seated. At 83 years old, Justice Breyer is the oldest member of the court, and along with Justice Elena Kagan and Justice Sonia Sotomayor, is among the three liberal justices.
In his search for Breyer’s successor, “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,” read the White House statement. President Biden tweeted his announcement on Friday, February 25, 2022.
Jackson, born in Washington D.C. and raised in Miami, is the daughter of public school teachers who became administrators in the Miami-Dade Public School System. She graduated from Harvard University and Harvard Law School, where she was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. Jackson went on to clerk for Justice Breyer during the 1999-2000 Supreme Court term.
Jackson was one of President Biden’s first judicial nominees. She was confirmed with bipartisan support by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 2021. Previously, in 2012, Jackson was nominated by former President Barack Obama to a district court judgeship in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. She was confirmed with bipartisan support for that position as well.
Majority Whip and Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee Richard “Dick” Durbin, who will oversee Jackson’s confirmation hearings, released a statement following her nomination, recognizing Jackson as an extraordinary choice from a list of strong candidates.
“To be the first to make history in our nation you need to have an exceptional life story. Judge Jackson’s achievements are well known to the Senate Judiciary Committee as we approved her to the D.C. Circuit less than a year ago with bipartisan support. We will begin immediately to move forward on her nomination with the careful, fair, and professional approach she and America are entitled to,” said Durbin.
More than a year ago, the nation’s leading Black think tank, The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies (Joint Center), urged President Biden to prioritize nominating Black judges to the U.S. Court of Appeals due to impending retirements. Jackson was the president’s first nominee and the Joint Center supported her through the process, recognizing that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is often a stepping stone to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).
In a statement today Spencer Overton, president of the Joint Center declared, “President Biden made an outstanding choice in nominating Judge Jackson to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Her experiences clerking for Justice Breyer at the U.S. Supreme Court, practicing law and serving as a federal judge at the district and appellate levels give her deep insights into the federal judiciary.”
Jackson’s nomination was equally welcomed by local judges including Justice Richard T. Fields, an associate justice in California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal. Like Jackson, Fields is no stranger to firsts as he became the first African-American judge in Riverside County in 2000.
“She’s an exceptional candidate — very smart, very experienced. I think she brings a dynamic background to the position, her upbringing, her education, her background is just phenomenal,” Fields said. Jackson also worked as a public defender which is another factor that sets her apart.
If confirmed, she would also be the first former federal public defender to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.
The next step in the process, now that President Biden has made his nomination, is to seek the Senate’s consent to confirm Jackson to the nation’s highest court.