The Supreme Court of the United States holds the highest judicial power in the nation, and it is under that power that the promise of equal justice for all Americans is meant to be protected. With each Justice serving a lifetime tenure—until they die, retire, resign, or are removed from office—it makes the choices concerning who sits on that judiciary panel of critical importance. Now, with the upcoming retirement of Judge Stephen Breyer later this summer, there is an imminent vacancy on the federal tribunal. Just a few days ago, President Joe Biden announced 51-year-old Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as his Supreme Court nominee to fill the seat, initiating a historic milestone for the nation.
Jackson currently holds a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and she previously served for eight years as a federal trial court judge. But coming up through the ranks as a public defender, her path to becoming a judge was unconventional as—unlike most judges—she does not hold a background as a prosecutor or major corporate lawyer. Nevertheless, Jackson’s professional experience isn’t the only thing that makes her unique as a candidate. In fact, the significance of her nomination is much greater than that. Jackson is the first Black woman ever nominated to the Supreme court. And if she is appointed and confirmed, she will make history as the first Black woman to sit on the nation’s highest tribunal.
“For too long, our government, our courts haven't looked like America,” Biden said upon announcing Jackson’s nomination. “I believe it's time that we have a court that reflects the full talents and greatness of our nation with a nominee of extraordinary qualifications, and that we inspire all young people to believe that they can one day serve their country at the highest level.”
In addition to her varied professional background, Jackson’s life story was also one of the factors that drew President Biden to her as a candidate. She was born in Washington D.C. to parents who grew up in segregated schools but then went on to attend historically Black colleges and become schoolteachers. The family later moved to Miami, where Jackson was raised while her father attended law school and her mother went on to become a school principal. Before she even went to kindergarten, Jackson started to fall in love with law as she sat coloring next to her father while he read cases, studied law books, and prepared for Socratic questioning.
She pursued that love of law throughout her education, going on to graduate with honors from Harvard University and Harvard Law School. And upon finishing her law degree, Jackson proceeded to clerk for three federal judges—one of which was Justice Breyer, the very man she is poised to replace. In her remarks upon her nomination, she humbly acknowledged the man’s incredible service and impact upon her own journey with a touching tribute.
“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 can perform at the highest level of skill and integrity, while also being guided by civility, grace, pragmatism, and generosity of spirit,” Jackson shared. “Justice Breyer, the members of the Senate will decide if I fill your seat, but please know that I could never fill your shoes.”
Now that President Biden has named Ketanji Brown Jackson as his Supreme Court nominee, there are still a few more hurdles to clear before it is official. It is left to the vote of the Senate to decide Jackson’s confirmation, and Senate leadership has expressed the desire to move through the process quickly, hoping to have the nominee confirmed by early April. But whatever the timeline, Jackson’s nomination has certainly marked an important moment in the nation’s history, one that will have an impact for generations to come.
President Joe Biden announced Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as his nominee for Supreme Court Justice, and she is the first Black woman to be nominated to the Supreme Court.
I’m proud to announce that I am nominating Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to serve on the Supreme Court. 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.https://t.co/iePvhz1YaA pic.twitter.com/Nzqv2AtN8h
— President Biden (@POTUS) February 25, 2022
Watch this video to hear Jackson's remarks upon her historic nomination.