Ketanji Brown Jackson, a federal appellate court judge and former public defender, will be President Joe Biden’s nominee to the United States Supreme Court, the first Black woman ever nominated.
“I’m proud to announce that I am nominating Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to serve on the Supreme Court,” Biden said in a Friday morning tweet. “Currently serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, she is one of our nation’s brightest legal minds and will be an exceptional Justice.”
Jackson, 51, was nominated to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by former President Barack Obama, and served there for eight years before being confirmed last year to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. A Harvard Law School graduate, Jackson clerked for Justice Stephen Breyer, who announced he would retire from the Supreme Court at the end of the current term.
In addition to being the first Black woman on the court, Jackson will be the first former federal public defender on the bench. She is also a former vice chair of the United States Sentencing Commission.
Biden’s nomination of Jackson fulfills a campaign promise he made during the 2020 Democratic primary to nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court. If confirmed, Jackson is not expected to significantly alter the balance of the majority-conservative court, but progressives hope her confirmation will lock in a solid liberal vote for years to come.
If confirmed, Jackson would bring a level of personal experience with the criminal justice system that’s unique on the Supreme Court. In addition to her work as a public defender, one of Jackson’s uncles was sentenced to life in prison in 1989 for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, while another uncle is former Miami Police Chief Calvin Ross.
And among the several potential nominees Biden considered, Jackson was widely seen as the most progressive option. In 2019, Jackson ordered former White House chief counsel Don McGahn to testify during former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment investigation. And liberal groups led by the judicial reform advocacy group Demand Justice urged Biden this week to nominate “someone with civil rights or public defense experience to the Supreme Court,” a clear nod to Jackson.
Demand Justice called Jackson a “slam-dunk” pick Friday. “By nominating the first-ever public defender to the Supreme Court, President Biden will cement his legacy as the modern president most committed to elevating lawyers who have represented the poor and the powerless,” executive director Brian Fallon said in a statement.
“My standards for this nominee go beyond integrity, brilliance, and fairness,” civil rights lawyer Ben Crump wrote in an op-ed this week endorsing Jackson. “I carry the additional purchase that this justice must represent African Americans in a way that has cultural competency, forcefulness and instills deep pride… a talented African American woman who not only acts justly and upholds our Constitution but is rooted in an experience that so many of us share.”
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