Three times the Senate has confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson – twice unanimously.
Now, an evenly divided Senate will face the task of confirming Judge Jackson to the highest court in America and, in the process, make her the first Black woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.
On Friday, February 25, President Joe Biden made Brown Jackson his choice to succeed Justice Stephen Breyer who announced his retirement in January.
“It’s because of Judge Brown Jackson’s experience in roles at all levels of the justice system, her character and her legal brilliance that President Biden nominated her to the D.C. Circuit Court, after which she earned her third Senate confirmation,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates wrote in an earlier statement.
While on the campaign trail two years ago, Biden pledged to nominate to the Supreme Court the first Black woman. He has kept that promise.
Since Justice Breyer’s retirement announcement, the president has maintained his commitment despite expected Republican pushback.
“For too long, our government, our courts haven’t looked like America,” Biden said. “And I believe it’s time that we have a court that reflects the full talents and greatness of our nation with a nominee of extraordinary qualifications and that we inspire all young people to believe that they can one day serve their country at the highest level.”
The president added: “I’ve admired these traits of pragmatism, historical perspective, wisdom and character in jurists nominated by Republican presidents as well as Democratic presidents. And today, I’m pleased to introduce to the American people a candidate who continues this great tradition.”
Administration sources said after interviewing candidates, the president narrowed his choices to three finalists: Brown Jackson; Leondra Kruger, the California Supreme Court justice; and J. Michelle Childs, the judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina.
While many viewed Kruger as a dark horse, Childs enjoyed the support of Democratic power broker Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina.
However, Brown Jackson’s experience and the three previous Senate confirmations made her nearly a no-brainer for a president who desperately needs a victory in a divided country.
More than 170 Black Harvard alumni recently submitted a letter to the White House asking Biden to select Brown Jackson. Additionally, the prominent Florida-based Cuban American Bar Association, its board members, and past presidents sent a note to the White House supporting her nomination.
Born in D.C., the 51-year-old jurist grew up in Florida and went to high school in Miami.
“When [President Biden] made the commitment, I heard it as a commitment to America,” Butler said. “I thought it was an opportunity for so many more experiences to be part of the discourses of the Supreme Court, the lived experiences that whoever his nominee would be and we’re excited that it’s Justice Brown Jackson. I’m excited to call attention to her experience and credentials.”
Though the selection represents a historic moment in American history, the court will maintain its 6-3 conservative edge as it tackles high-profile and controversial cases, including gun rights, religious liberty and abortion.
“Judge Katanji Brown Jackson will fight for African Americans and other communities of color. We haven’t had this on the Supreme Court since Justice Thurgood Marshall,” said National Newspaper Publishers Association President/CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.
Justice Clarence Thomas, a Black conservative, never aligned himself with mainstream African-American issues. Brown Jackson once took Thomas to task, telling him, “I don’t understand you.”
Candidly, she told Thomas during a lunch meeting two decades ago, “You sound like my parents. You sound like the people I grew up with.”
She said the “lessons he tended to draw from the experiences of the segregated South seemed to be different than those of everybody I know.”
With a 50-50 Senate, Democrats do not need Republican help to confirm Brown Jackson. They can accomplish the historic confirmation with their 50 votes and Vice President Harris breaking a deadlock, should one occur.
Three Republican senators, Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Susan Collins of Maine, supported Brown Jackson when the jurist earned confirmation to the appellate court.
Among Judge Jackson’s more notable rulings include Congress’ ability to investigate the White House. She ordered the disclosure of certain documents by former President Donald Trump related to the January 6 insurrection.
During a 2021 confirmation hearing for the appellate court, Brown Jackson noted her background as a defense attorney and her parents’ careers as public servants.
“I come from a background of public service. My parents were in public service and my brother was a police officer and in the military,” she said. “Being in the public defenders’ office felt very much like the opportunity to help with my skills and talents.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he work to push the nomination through quickly.
Meanwhile, Congresswoman Val Demings (D-Fla.) pointed to Brown Jackson’s exceptional qualifications.
“Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has a spectacular record, impeccable credentials and her perspective will be a breath of fresh air on the court,” Demings said.
“In the coming years, the Supreme Court is likely to hear cases that may determine the long-term direction of American life and the safety and constitutional rights of every American. Judge Jackson has demonstrated throughout her career that she will be impartial, meticulous and will put the law and Constitution first in every case.”
“In less partisan times, she is the kind of nominee who might have been confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate. I expect every member of the Senate to give Judge Jackson full and fair consideration. This remarkable Floridian should be confirmed without delay,” Demings said.
Marcella Howell, president and CEO, In Our Own Voice: National Reproductive Justice Agenda, described Brown Jackson as one with a proven record of fighting for human and civil rights.
“The U.S. Supreme Court should reflect the values and lived experiences of all Americans, not just the politics of a few,” Howell said. “This historic nomination is an important step in that direction. Ketanji Brown Jackson can make that a reality and we urge the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to immediately hold hearings. We call on the U.S. Senate to bring the nomination to a vote without delay.”