Just three days before Black History Month 2022 comes to an end, President Joe Biden has selected Ketanji Brown Jackson as his nominee to the Supreme Court. The nomination comes exactly two years to the day after Biden made his promise during the 2020 presidential campaign to nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court.
Here are five things to know.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson clerked for Justice Stephen Breyer
The 51-year-old, D.C. native graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School. She worked several legal jobs early in her career, including as a staff member for the United States Sentencing Commission and as an assistant federal public defender in Washington. With many years of experience, Jackson also clerked for Justice Breyer during the Supreme Court’s 1999-2000 term. This is a nice nod to her predecessor’s accession, as Judge Breyer clerked for Justice Harry Buckmun before being appointed by President Clinton in 1994 following Buckmun’s retirement.
She is no stranger to the Biden Administration or a SCOTUS nomination interview process.
This isn’t Jackson’s first rodeo. She was nominated to serve as a district court judge in the capital in 2012 by then-President Obama. She was confirmed in early 2013. Obama also interviewed her as a potential nominee after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016. Ultimately the SCOTUS selection went to Trump, and Justice Neil Gorsuch filled the seat.
First judge since Justice Thurgood Marshall with criminal defense lawyer experience to serve on the bench.
The historic nomination nods to a previous historic nomination. It shouldn’t be lost on Americans that in the 55 years since the first Black justice, Thurgood Marshall, was appointed, that the first Black woman to be appointed to the supreme court shares similar experience as a criminal defense lawyer. According to NBCNews, as a public defender, Jackson was assigned to represent Guantanamo Bay detainee Khi Ali Gul. She has also been involved in other Guantanamo-related cases.
Jackson has received bipartisanship support prior to the Supreme Court nomination.
Bipartisan support isn’t dire for Jackson’s confirmation, but preferred by the Biden administration. Since the Republican party is hell-bent on stalling any progression from the Democrat party and didn’t respond well to race being a key factor for Biden’s nomination, strategically, Jackson was the best pick. She was just confirmed to the appeals court in June by a 53-to-44 vote. All 50 members of the Democratic caucus voted for her, as did three Republican senators: Susan Collins (R-ME), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).
She notoriously ruled against Trump stating, “Presidents are not kings.”
Jackson was very active in standing against Trump. While several of her rulings were overturned by a higher court, including those on Trump’s attempt to fast-track deportations and executive orders constraining government unions’ power, she persisted. According to the New York Times, In 2019, she ruled that the former White House counsel to Trump, Donald F. McGahn II, had to obey a congressional subpoena seeking his testimony over Trump’s efforts to obstruct the Russia investigation, stating, “Presidents are not kings.” She also ruled against Trump in his attempt to block the release of records from his White House related to Jan. 6, 2021.
Jackson was also the judge who sentenced the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theorist who shot inside a D.C. restaurant to four years in prison.