Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson


Riley Ehrenberg

On February 25, 2022, President Joe Biden nominated Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to become the 16th Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. This would make her the first Black woman on the Supreme Court in its 233-year history.

Judge Jackson was born in Washington, DC, in 1970, and grew up in Miami, Florida. Her parents attended historically Black universities before becoming leaders of the Miami-Dade Public School System. Judge Jackson credits her interest in law to her study sessions with her father while he was at law school and she was in preschool. In a 2017 lecture, she said, “He had all of his law books stacked up and I had all of my coloring books stacked up.” In her youth, she was a speech and debate star, and student body president of her middle and high school.

Judge Jackson was often discouraged from trying to reach her goals because of her race. When she told her high school guidance counselor that she wanted to attend Harvard she was told to “not set her sights too high”. Despite this, she went on to graduate magna cum laude from Harvard University. She then attended Harvard Law School, where she was an editor for the Harvard Law Review and graduated cum laude.

Early in her career, Judge Jackson served as a clerk for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who she has now been nominated to replace. She worked as a federal public defender, representing some of the country’s most venerable people. In 2012, she was nominated by former President Barack Obama to the District Court for the District of Columbia, where she worked until 2021 when President Joe Biden appointed her to the DC Court of Appeals.

Judge Jackson is an advocate for diversity and the Black community. She was active in the Black Students Association throughout college and she has represented Black people throughout her career by mentoring them, hiring Black clerks as judges, and using her role in the United States Sentencing Commission to advocate for lighter criminal sentencing policies.

Since her nomination, Judge Jackson has been met with support, criticism, and intense scrutiny from both Republicans and Democrats. During last week’s Supreme Court Confirmation hearings, several Republican Senators suggested that Judge Jackson had given felons convicted of child sex abuse crimes unusually lenient sentences. Judge Jackson responded, saying, “The judge is not just evaluating what the government says in these cases. In every criminal case, a judge has to take into account all sorts of factors.” Former president Donald Trump has criticized Judge Jackson for the “disrespectful” manner in which she responded to Republican Senators’ questions during the conformation hearings. At a rally in Commerce, Georgia, he said, “Judge Jackson was unbelievably disrespectful to Republican Senators that in many cases were really nicely asking questions. She had total disdain and even hatred for them.” She has also received support. Senator Susan Collins, a centrist from  Maine, announced that she plans to vote to confirm Judge Jackson to the Supreme Court. After her second personal meeting with the judge she stated, “I have decided to support the confirmation of Judge Jackson to be a member of the Supreme Court…” In a poll conducted by Marquette Law School, 66% of Americans, including 95% of Democrats, 29% of Republicans, and 67% of independents are in support of Judge Jackson’s nomination. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee is not expected to vote until April 4 to confirm Judge Jackson to the Supreme Court. If she is confirmed, it will be a pivotal moment for the United States.