Biden Nominates 'Consensus Builder' Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court

If confirmed by the Senate, Judge Jackson will be the first Black woman on the high court.

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Ketanji Brown Jackson

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson speaks about her nomination to the US Supreme Court on Friday. 

Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

President Joe Biden on Friday officially nominated Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. If confirmed, Jackson will make history as the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

She would replace Associate Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who announced in January that he's retiring at the end of the current session. 

Biden, who first pledged to select a Black woman for the high court during the 2020 presidential campaign, said Jackson is "one of our nation's brightest legal minds and will be an exceptional Justice," in a tweet Friday morning.

In a briefing Friday afternoon, Biden praised Jackson as a "proven consensus builder" with a distinguished resume as both an attorney and a jurist.

"If confirmed, she will join Justice Sotomayor as the only other member of the Supreme Court who has experience as a trial court judge, a critical qualification in my view," he said.
At the same briefing, Jackson credited her father, an attorney for the Miami-Dade School Board, for inspiring her passion for the law.

"Some of my earliest memories are of him sitting at the kitchen table reading his books," she said. "I watched him study and he became my first professional role model."

Jackson also credited Breyer, for whom she clerked in 1999: "The members of the Senate will decide if I fill your seat, but please know that I could never fill your shoes."

And in a nod to her history-making nomination, Jackson talked about another inspiration to her. "I share a birthday with the first Black woman ever to be appointed as a federal judge: the Honorable Constance Baker Motley. ... Today, I proudly stand on Judge Motley's shoulders, sharing not only her birthday, but also her steadfast and courageous commitment to equal justice under law." 

The president previously nominated Jackson, 51, to replace Merrick Garland, now attorney general, in March to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. It's considered one of the most important federal courts in the nation and a pipeline to the Supreme Court.

Jackson was confirmed to the appeals court by the Senate in an uncontentious hearing three months later, with Republicans Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins and Lindsey Graham joining all Senate Democrats in voting for the appointment.

If she is confirmed to the Supreme Court, Jackson will be only the third Black justice in the court's 233-year history. It would also mark the first time that two African American justices are on the bench at the same time, as well as the first time four women serve  simultaneously.  

After receiving both her bachelor's and law degrees from Harvard, Jackson worked in private practice and as a public defender. She also served as a US district judge in the District of Columbia and on the US Sentencing Commission.

Before Biden's announcement, civil rights attorney Ben Crump -- who has represented the families of Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery -- praised Jackson's credentials in an op-ed for The Hill.

"There will be no learning curve for Judge Jackson," he wrote. "She knows the law, has adjudicated it well, and is battle-tested." 

 Jackson has reportedly been on Biden's short list of potential nominees since Breyer's announcement, alongside California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger and Judge J. Michelle Childs, who serves on the US District Court in Columbia, South Carolina.

Doug Jones, a former Democratic senator from Alabama, has been tapped to guide Jackson during her Senate confirmation process.

In a statement Friday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, congratulated Jackson on her nomination and said he "look[ed] forward to meeting with her in person and studying her record, legal views, and judicial philosophy."

But he reiterated that the Senate should conduct "a rigorous, exhaustive review" in its confirmation hearings. "I voted against confirming Judge Jackson to her current position less than a year ago," McConnell said.