Biden nominates first Black woman to the Supreme Court

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. (Photo by Lloyd DeGrane/Wikimedia Commons)

By Talia Lissauer
Boston University News Service

Ketanji Brown Jackson became the first Black woman nominated to the Supreme Court when President Joe Biden nominated her on Feb. 25 to fill the seat of Justice Stephen Breyer and become the 116th associate justice of the Supreme Court. 

When Breyer announced his retirement last month, President Biden said he would honor his campaign promise of nominating the first Black woman to the highest court in the United States. 

After a month-long search, he decided on Jackson, who has already been approved by the Senate three times in the last 13 years. 

When Biden announced his nomination, Jackson thanked her family — her husband and two kids — the president, vice president, and Breyer for helping her get where she is.

“I am truly humbled by the extraordinary honor of this nomination. And I am especially grateful for the care that you have taken in discharging your constitutional duty in service of our democracy with all that is going on in the world today.” 

According to the White House, Jackson delivers on all the qualifications Biden was looking for. 

“President Biden sought a candidate with exceptional credentials, unimpeachable character, and unwavering dedication to the rule of law,” the White House stated. “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.”

She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University and then attended Harvard Law School.

Jackson clerked for the Supreme Court before becoming a public defender. In 2009, former President Barack Obama nominated her to serve as vice president of the U.S. Sentencing Commission and was approved in 2010 with bipartisan support. Obama nominated her for the U.S. District Court for Washington D.C. in 2012, and she was approved in 2013.

She was one of Biden’s first nominees when he nominated her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington D.C. Circuit and she was approved.

“Because of her diverse and broad public service, Judge Jackson has a unique appreciation of how critical it is for the justice system to be fair and impartial,” the White House said. With multiple law enforcement officials in her family, she also has a personal understanding of the stakes of the legal system.”

If Jackson is approved to the court, she will be the third African American and the sixth woman to serve on the court.

Breyer, whom Jackson would replace, is a left-leaning judge that will retire at the end of this term as long as his replacement is approved by then. Based on Jackson’s past decisions, she is also left-leaning.    

While speaking on the nomination, Biden said Breyer was Jackson’s mentor and she clerked for him when she was a Supreme Court clerk.

“Not only did she learn about being a judge from Justice Breyer himself, she saw the great rigor through which Justice Breyer approached his work,” said Biden.  She learned from his willingness to work with colleagues with different viewpoints — critical qualities for — in my view, any Supreme Court Justice.”

Even with Jackson, the court will remain conservative-leaning, with five conservative-leaning judges currently serving. 

The Democrats currently have the majority of the 50-50 Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker. While a typical nomination process can take two to three months, Democrats are working to approve a nominee before the midterm election, as they may lose control of the Senate. 

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