Biden Nominates D.C. Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to Supreme Court

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New Supreme Court Nominee, D.C. Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Judge Jackson was nominated to take retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s place. She has served in the U.S. Army and has experience as a public defender.

Sayna Kaushik, News Editor, Video Editor, Co-Podcast Host

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announced on January 27, 2022, his retirement from the nation’s highest court, creating the opportunity for President Joe Biden to appoint a replacement.  On February 25, The White House announced their nominee: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, a current U.S. Court of Appeals Judge for the D.C. Circuit. 

The White House announced in a statement, “Judge Jackson is one of our nation’s brightest legal minds and has an unusual breadth of experience in our legal system, giving her the perspective to be an exceptional Justice.” 

If Jackson is confirmed by the U.S. Senate, she will become the 116th Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.  At 51 years-old, she also makes history as the Supreme Court’s first female African-American nominee.

Judge Jackson’s background

Judge Jackson grew up in Miami, Florida but was born in Washington, D.C. She obtained her love of law through observing her father while he attended law school. During her early childhood, Jackson excelled in debate and speech classes. Judge Jackson went on to graduate from Harvard-Radcliffe College prior to attending Harvard Law School, where she served as a supervising editor for the prestigious Harvard Law Review. She also served in the U.S. Army and has been deployed in Egypt and Iraq. 

The full breadth of her legal experience can be viewed on the D.C. Circuit’s official website: “Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson received her commission as a United States Circuit Judge in June of 2021. From 2013 until 2021, she served [as] a United States District Judge, and until December of 2014, she also served as a Vice-Chair and Commissioner on the United States Sentencing Commission.”

In terms of what unique attributes Judge Jackson might bring to the Court, she has a wealth of experience representing defendants who didn’t have the financial means of paying for a lawyer.  If she is confirmed, Biden’s nominee will also make history as the first former federal public defender on the Supreme Court Bench. 

An Historic Nomination

Judge Jackson is President Biden’s first judicial nominee. The White House’s press release announcing her nomination described her as having received “bipartisan support” when she was appointed to the US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 2021.  The US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is considered one of the nation’s second most powerful courts behind the Supreme Court itself. 

In response to her nomination, Jackson said, “I must begin these very 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.”

Path to the Bench

Biden has been pushing for a Black Supreme Court Nominee since he ran for President in 2020. 

As with any new SCOTUS addition, the process is two-fold: first the nomination, and then the confirmation.  After being nominated by a sitting U.S. President, the Senate Judiciary Committee collects intelligence and performs the equivalent of a high-level background check on the nominee. They will then hold a series of hearings to vet the candidate further.  Once the hearings are complete, the Senate debates the nominee’s candidacy. Fifty-one of the 100 Senators must vote in favor of Jackson’s confirmation in a “confirmation vote.” After this phase is complete the senate will move on to the final voting process. For both votes, 51 senators (out of 100) need to vote in favor of the nominated candidate.

As we await the Senate vote, the nation is once again divided between Republicans and Democrats. Many rumors have been circulating about Judge Jackson and her past work. Recently, controversy erupted after Sean Hannity, a popular right-wing pundit, questioned Jackson’s fitness for the position by asking to see her LSAT scores.