President Joe Biden announced his selection for the open Supreme Court position today, choosing Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as his nominee. The selection of Jackson upholds Biden’s promise to select a Black woman for the role, and if she’s confirmed, Jackson would be the first Black woman ever to sit on the Supreme Court.
“I’m proud to announce that I am nominating Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to serve on the Supreme Court,” read a tweet from the president’s Twitter account. “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.”
The president offered the position to Jackson on Thursday, according to a CNN source, and she accepted. President Biden told audiences during his 2020 campaign trail that he wanted “everyone represented” and that included making “sure there’s a Black woman on the Supreme Court,” per CNN.
Of course, Biden’s decision didn’t fare well with everyone, particularly Republican senators who felt the president should choose someone without regard to factors outside a résumé. (Mind you, former President Donald Trump vowed to nominate a woman to the post during his tenure, which he fulfilled through the controversial confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett.)
“I don’t think that race plays a role in the kind of judge that I have been and would be,” Jackson once explained. “I’m doing a certain thing when I get my cases. I’m looking at the arguments, the facts and the law. I’m methodically and intentionally setting aside personal views, any other inappropriate considerations, and I would think that race would be the kind of thing that would be inappropriate to inject into my evaluation of a case.”
She added, “I’ve experienced life in perhaps a different way than some of my colleagues because of who I am, and that might be valuable—I hope it would be valuable—if I was confirmed to the court.”
But to be clear: Jackson is extremely well qualified for the role, with a lengthy list of credentials to back it up. That said, here’s what you should know about Ketanji Brown Jackson in light of her historic nomination (and potential historic confirmation!).
She has a very long and impressive résumé
If confirmed to SCOTUS, Jackson will leave her post on the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit where she has served since the summer after being elected by the Senate with a 53–44 vote. Prior to that, Jackson was on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for eight years, where she was appointed by former President Barack Obama in 2013. Before this position, she worked on the U.S. Sentencing Commission (aka the agency that oversees and creates the durations of federal criminal sentences) and was later promoted to the vice chair role of the organization.
Jackson also has a background in public defending, and if appointed to the Supreme Court, she would be the first person to join the ranks who used to be a federal defender. Way before all of that, Jackson was a clerk for Justice Breyer, who she’ll be replacing if confirmed. FWIW, Breyer once described Jackson as “great” and “brilliant.” He continued, “She is a mix of common sense, thoughtfulness. She is decent. She is very smart and has the mix of skills and experience we need on the bench.”
She‘s an Ivy League graduate
Ahem, make that two-time graduate. Jackson earned both her Bachelor’s degree and law degree from Harvard, where she graduated in 1992 and 1996, respectively—each time with honors and high honors—despite the fact that her high school counselor told her she shouldn’t set her “sights so high.” During her time at Harvard Law School, Jackson also held the editor role on the storied Harvard Law Review.
If confirmed, Jackson will be the second youngest Justice
At just 51 years old, Judge Jackson would be just behind Justice Amy Coney Barrett (who recently celebrated her 50th birthday this month) in age.
She’s from Miami
Even though Jackson was born in Washington, D.C., she grew up in the south Florida hotspot with her parents. In high school, Jackson was a star on the speech and debate team and started her early political career as student body class president. Now she lives in the nation’s capital with her husband and their two daughters.