Biden Chooses a ‘Proven Consensus Builder’ to Be the First Black Woman on US Supreme Court 

'I am not importing my personal views or policy preferences,' Ketanji Brown Jackson repeated over the course of Tuesday's pointed questioning, as one after another, GOP senators questioned her personal politics and her record. If confirmed, Jackson would be the only Supreme Court justice with experience as a public defender, representing poor clients in criminal cases. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

By Sarah Ovaska

February 25, 2022

Ketanji Brown Jackson would also be the first public defender ever nominated to the court. Her nomination fulfills one of President Biden’s campaign promises. 

The United States may soon see the first Black woman to serve as a justice on the US Supreme Court, with the nomination Friday of federal appeals court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Jackson, 51, a Harvard law graduate who grew up in Miami, would be the third Black person in sit on the court as it prepares to decide important cases concerning abortion, voting rights and affirmative action policies. Out of the 115 people that have served on the court, there have been 108 white men, four white women, two black men and one Latina.

President Joe Biden selected her to replace the retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, a liberal judge she once clerked for. If approved by the Senate, Jackson would not change the current court’s 6-3 conservative majority.

When introducing Jackson at the White House announcement Friday afternoon, Biden called her a “proven consensus builder.”

“She strives to be fair, to get it right, to do justice,” the president said. 

Jackson would bring another first to the court as well: she would be the first on the court with a background as a public defender, as she worked representing poor defendants in criminal cases earlier in her legal career.

Standing on the Shoulders of Others

On Friday, she talked at the White House announcement about her connection to the late Constance Baker Motley, a renowned civil rights attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund who wrote the first complaint in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education. Motley was also the first Black woman to serve on the federal bench.

Motley and Jackson share the same birthday, Sept. 14, 49 years apart.  Jackson said Friday she has long been inspired by Motley’s career and steadfast commitment to justice.

“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,” she said.

Jackson’s nomination must be approved by the US Senate, where a 50-50 split gives Democrats only the narrowest of majorities, with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as a tie-breaker vote.

US senators have set a tentative goal of confirmation by April 8, when they leave for a two-week spring recess. Hearings could start as soon as mid-March.

Once the nomination is sent to the Senate, it is up to the Senate Judiciary Committee to vet the nominee and hold confirmation hearings. After the committee approves a nomination, it goes to the Senate floor for a final vote.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 


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