On February 25, 2022, President Joe Biden announced Ketanji Brown Jackson, a former public defender and current U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge with over a decade of legal experience, as his nominee to replace the vacant seat left by retiring Justice Stephen Breyer. If confirmed, Jackson would become the first Black woman to ever sit on the Supreme Court as well as the second justice in history to have criminal defense experience. The first was Thurgood Marshall. Additionally, at age 51, if confirmed, Jackson will become the second youngest justice in history behind Amy Coney Barrett.
Currently, with the Supreme Court holding a conservative majority of six to three, Jackson’s extensive resume and historically bipartisan approach to law could make her an even more likely candidate for confirmation. With a decision fast approaching, it’s important to know more about Ketanji Brown Jackson and see what she brings to the Supreme Court during one of America’s most polarizing political eras to date.
“As I have pursued this professional path, and if I’m 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,” stated Jackson during a White House event on Friday, February 25.
A two-time Harvard graduate and former clerk to retiring Justice Breyer, Jackson started her career working as a junior litigator in the Washington D.C. area, where she was successful in acquiring compensatory funds for victims of terrorism and other disasters. Highly regarded throughout the legal community, Jackson is considered a leading expert on federal sentencing policy, having served as both the Vice Chair and Commissioner of the U.S. Sentencing Commission. During her time there, Jackson actively worked to reduce sentences for a variety of low-level drug offenders, permitting 12,000 incarcerated individuals to seek reduced sentences as well as securing the immediate release of roughly 1,800 inmates.
Last year, President Biden elevated Jackson to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, a position which is widely viewed as the second most powerful judicial role in the country. Jackson is a more than qualified candidate to assume the role of Supreme Court Justice, but in America’s current political landscape, ideology reigns supreme. As a Democratic leaning bipartisan judge, Jackson will have to face a primarily Republican controlled Senate, who currently hold no outspoken objections towards her ascension to the high court.
From here, the nomination process now transitions to a vote in the Senate, where Democrats are currently working to enlist members on both sides for support. According to the White House and Senate Judiciary Committee, a voting deadline has been set for the process to be completed by April 9, 2022. With an already history-making nomination, the possible confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson remains to be seen, but will no doubt have the eyes of a nation looking on.