BCN Staff – Feb. 25, 2022 – President Joe Biden today (Feb. 25) said he would soon announce his intent to nominate Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Currently a judge on U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Biden said Jackson is one of the nation’s brightest legal minds. If confirmed, she will be the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.
According to the White House, since Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement in late January, Biden and his staff have conducted a rigorous process to identify his replacement. Biden said also sought a candidate with exceptional credentials, unimpeachable character, and unwavering dedication to the rule of law.
“He also sought a nominee—much like Justice Breyer—who is wise, pragmatic, and has a deep understanding of the Constitution as an enduring charter of liberty,” the White House said in a statement. “And the President sought an individual who is committed to equal justice under the law and who understands the profound impact that the Supreme Court’s decisions have on the lives of the American people.”
As the longtime Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Biden said he took seriously the Constitution’s requirement that he make this appointment “by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate,” seeking the advice of Senators in both parties. He studied the histories and case records of candidates, consulted legal experts, and met with candidates.
“Judge Jackson is an exceptionally qualified nominee as well as an historic nominee, and the Senate should move forward with a fair and timely hearing and confirmation,” said Biden.
A former clerk for Justice Breyer, Judge Jackson has broad experience across the legal profession – as a federal appellate judge, a federal district court judge, a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, an attorney in private practice, and as a federal public defender. Judge Jackson has been earlier confirmed by the Senate for other federal judicial posts with votes from Republicans as well as Democrats three times.
Jackson has also devoted most of her career to serving the public—as a U.S. Sentencing Commission lawyer and commissioner; as a federal public defender; and as a federal judge. Judge Jackson currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. From 2013 to 2021, she served as a United States District Judge for the District of Columbia. She has been confirmed by the Senate on a bipartisan basis three times – twice as judge and once to serve on the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
Judge Jackson was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up in Miami, Florida. Her parents attended segregated primary schools in the South, then attended Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Both started their careers as public-school teachers and became leaders and administrators in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools. When Jackson told her high school guidance counselor she wanted to attended Harvard, the guidance counselor warned that Judge Jackson should not set her sights “so high.” That didn’t stop Jackson, however, she graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College, then attended Harvard Law School, where she graduated cum laude and was an editor of the Harvard Law Review.
After law school, Judge Jackson served in Justice Breyer’s chambers as a law clerk. Judge Jackson served as a federal public defender from 2005 to 2007, representing defendants on appeal who did not have the means to pay for a lawyer. If confirmed, she would be the first former federal public defender to serve on the Supreme Court.
Prior to serving as a judge, Judge Jackson followed in the footsteps of her mentor Justice Breyer by working on the U.S. Sentencing Commission—an important body, bipartisan by design, that President Biden fought to create as a member of the U.S. Senate. Her work there focused on reducing unwarranted sentencing disparities and ensuring that federal sentences were just and proportionate.
Jackson lives with her husband, Patrick, who serves as Chief of the Division of General Surgery at Georgetown University Hospital, and two daughters, in Washington, D.C. To be confirmed to the nation’s highest court, Biden will have to send her nomination to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration.
That committee, chaired by Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, will then hold a hearing on the nominee. The Committee usually takes a month to collect and receive all necessary records, from the FBI and other sources, about the nominee and for the nominee to be prepared for the hearings.
During the hearings, witnesses, both supporting and opposing the nomination, present their views. Senators question the nominee on his or her qualifications, judgment, and philosophy. The Judiciary Committee then votes on the nomination and sends its recommendation for Jackson to be confirmed or rejected or noncommittal to the full Senate.
The Senate rules used to allow filibustering or unlimited debate on U.S. Supreme Court nominees. Under those former rules, it required the votes of 3/5 of the Senate or 60 senators to end debate on the president’s nominee. In April 2017, Republicans in the Senate changed this rule and lowered the required votes to 51 to end debate on Supreme Court nominations
When the debate ends on Jackson’s nomination, a simple majority of the Senators present and voting is required for her to be confirmed. If there is a tie, Vice President Kamala Harris, who also presides over the U.S. Senate, will cast the deciding vote. Today, the U.S. Senate is even split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans.
Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. After Breyer announced his resignation, Cotton also said he hopes Biden nominate a “jurist committed to the Constitution and the rule of law, instead of nominating yet another unqualified, left-wing ideologue, as he has done so often with lower-court nominees.” More recently, Cotton has held up two of Biden’s judicial nominees earlier this month because he said the Department of Justice failed to respond to his demand for answers about assistance to U.S. Marshals being sued over their defense of the Portland federal courthouse in 2020 during the George Floyd protests.
Since the Supreme Court was established in 1789, 114 justices have served on the bench. Of those, 108 have been White men.
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