President Joe Biden has nominated Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court to fill retiring Justice Stephen Breyer’s seat, keeping his campaign promise to put a Black woman on the highest court in the land as a guardian and interpreter of the Constitution.
The White House announced Biden’s intent to officially nominate Jackson, 51, in a news release on Friday, Feb. 25, after weeks of speculation that she was the frontrunner on a shortlist that included two other Black women – South Carolina U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs and California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger.
“Judge Jackson is an exceptionally qualified nominee as well as an historic nominee, and the Senate should move forward with a fair and timely hearing and confirmation,” the release said
Biden released a video shortly thereafter explaining why he chose Jackson, a Washington, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals judge.
“I sought a nominee with the strongest credentials, record, character, and dedication to the rule of law. That’s why I’m excited to nominate one of the nation’s brightest legal minds, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, to be our next Supreme Court justice,” Biden said.
During a press conference, Jackson paid homage to her parents, family and the “many” people who have paved the way for her. She expressed her gratefulness and jubilance at having the “extraordinary honor” of being nominated by Biden.
“I am truly humbled by the extraordinary honor of this nomination,” Jackson said. “I must begin these brief remarks by thanking God for delivering me to this point in my professional journey. My life has been blessed beyond measure and I do know that one can only come this far by faith.”
Born in D.C. and raised in Miami, Florida, Jackson is the daughter of two public school teachers and has one brother. She excelled in school, graduating from Miami Palmetto Senior High School and going on to obtain degrees in government and law from Harvard University.
During her career, Jackson spent time as a public defender and went on to clerk for three federal jurists, including Breyer, according to Politico. She praised Breyer for his mentorship and example.
“Justice Breyer in particular not only gave me the greatest job that any young lawyer could ever hope to have, but he also exemplified every day, in every way that a Supreme Court Justice could perform at the highest level of skill and integrity, while also being guided by civility, grace, pragmatism and generosity of spirit,” Jackson said.
“Justice Breyer, the senate will decide whether or not I fill your seat, but please know that I could ever fill your shoes,” Jackson continued.
The feeling is apparently mutual. Breyer has described Jackson as “brilliant,” a “mix of common sense” and “thoughtfulness.”
In 2019, Jackson ruled on a high-profile case in which former White House counsel Don McGahn was being tried for his failure to comply with a subpoena.
“Presidents are not kings. This means that they do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control,” Jackson wrote. “Rather, in this land of liberty, it is indisputable that employees of the White House work for the people of the United States, and that they take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Confirmed by the Senate for her current seat in June, Jackson said she is objective in her rulings. “When you become a judge you take an oath to look only at the law in deciding your cases,” Jackson said during her hearing.
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Jackson was confirmed by the Senate twice before for roles on the U.S. Sentencing Commission and the Federal District Court in the District of Columbia.
A few days before Biden made his announcement, a group of organizations including MoveOn, Indivisible, Justice Democrats and Demos sent a letter to the president expressing their support of Jackson without calling her by name, NBC News reported.
“As you consider your most important judicial nomination to date, we urge you to build on your commitment to professional diversity by appointing someone with civil rights or public defense experience to the Supreme Court,” they wrote in the letter.
Jackson was the only person on the list with those qualifications.
“Out of the group of potential candidates, she [Jackson] would be one of those rarities on the court and probably … the first person since Thurgood Marshall was named to the court in 67 that would have defense attorney chops. … That gives us something different,” said Gary Fields, the global religion news editor at The Associated Press.
Fields also said he didn’t think there would be credence to any opposition Jackson would face as a result of her background.
“She just went through this exact same [confirmation] process last year,” Fields continued. “So if nothing arose to scuttle her from coming onto the second most powerful court in the land, I doubt that she’s done anything in the last year that would suddenly become disqualifying.”
According to her high school yearbook, Jackson dreamed of a career in law. “I want to go into law and eventually have a judicial appointment,” Jackson wrote, as reported by NBC. She followed in her father’s footsteps, who transitioned from his career as a teacher to becoming an attorney.
While Jackson was praised by many prominent Democrats as the right choice for the job, her confirmation process is expected to be contentious due to House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and some Republicans favoring Childs for the role.
U.S. Vice President Kalama Harris tweeted that Jackson is “eminently qualified” to fill the role.
“President Biden has nominated Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. She is eminently qualified to serve our nation on our highest court,” Harris wrote. “And while she will be the first Black woman on the Supreme Court, Judge Jackson will not be the last.”
“I want to congratulate Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on her nomination to the Supreme Court,” former President Barack Obama tweeted. “Judge Jackson has already inspired young Black women like my daughters to set their sights higher, and her confirmation will help them believe they can be anything they want to be.”
“Black women carry this nation on our backs, and that’s why I’m proud to share with @AprilDRyan and @theGrio just why it means so much for @POTUS to nominate Miami’s very own, Ketanji Brown Jackson, to the #SupremeCourt! What better what to celebrate #BlackHistoryMonth?” Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson tweeted.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who favored Childs, struck a different tone
“If media reports are accurate, and Judge Jackson has been chosen as the Supreme Court nominee to replace Justice Breyer, it means the radical Left has won President Biden over yet again,” Graham tweeted. “The attacks by the Left on Judge Childs from South Carolina apparently worked.”
Clyburn has yet to comment publicly on Jackson’s nomination.
If confirmed, Jackson would be only the third Black American to serve on the Supreme Court bench. She emotionally concluded her nomination press conference noting it is an honor she would not take lightly.
“If I am fortunate enough to be confirmed as the next associate justice of the Supreme Court of the 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,” Jackson said.
Here are some other reactions to Jackson’s nomination:
PHOTO: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson speaks after President Joe Biden announced Jackson as his nominee to the Supreme Court in the Cross Hall of the White House, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022, in Washington. Vice President Kamala Harris listens at right. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)