US President Joe Biden nominated Judge Ketanji Jackson of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit as an associate justice to the Supreme Court on Friday. If her nomination is confirmed by the Senate, Jackson would be the first black woman to serve as a justice of the highest court of the nation.
The nomination follows Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement announcement in late January, marking the end of the oldest serving member’s 28-year Supreme Court tenure. Breyer’s retirement paved the way for Biden to fulfill his campaign promise of appointing a black woman to the bench. Jackson previously clerked at the Supreme Court under Breyer, the very person she would be replacing.
According to the Wall Street Journal and Law360, Jackson edged out multiple solid candidates who had met with Biden a few days prior to the announcement, such as California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger and Judge J. Michelle Childs of the US District Court for the District of South Carolina for the position.
Born in DC and raised in Florida, Jackson is known to be a high achiever and graduated Cum Laude from Harvard Law in 1996. Early in her career, Jackson served as a law clerk at the Massachusetts District Court under Judge Patti Saris and at the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit under Judge Bruce Selya until 1998. Jackson then entered private practice for a year with Baker Botts before proceeding to clerk under Breyer until 2000.
Following her Supreme Court clerkship, Jackson reentered private practice with Feinberg Rozen, LLP between 2002 and 2003. She then worked as an assistant special counsel for the US Sentencing Commission and as a federal public defender until 2007 before returning to private practice at Morrison & Foerster LLP.
Jackson returned to the Commission in 2010 succeeding Michael Horowitz as the vice-chair—a position to which she was nominated by former president Barack Obama. Jackson remained at the Commission until 2014 when Obama nominated her to the US District Court for the District of Columbia. She was elevated to the appeals court in 2021.
Jackson is considered a strong candidate who has written a number of significant opinions adverse to former president Donald Trump and his administration, such as the limits on the presidential powers to blocking fast-track deportation of illegal immigrants. Biden stated of his decision to nominate Jackson:
I looked for someone who, like Justice Breyer, has a pragmatic understanding that the law must work for the American people. Someone who has the historical perspective to understand that the Constitution is a resilient charter of liberty…someone with extraordinary character, who will bring to the Supreme Court an independent mind, uncompromising integrity, and with a strong moral compass and the courage to stand up for what she thinks is right. For too long, our government, our courts haven’t looked like America. 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…So, today, I’m pleased to nominate Judge Jackson, who will bring extraordinary qualifications, deep experience and intellect, and a rigorous judicial record to the Court.
Jackson thanked Biden for the nomination stating she is “humbled by the extraordinary honor of this nomination” and addressed Breyer stating that while it is up to the Senate now to confirm whether she fills his seat, she could never fill his shoes.