President Biden announces historic Supreme Court pick, Ketanji Brown Jackson

Biden's first selection to join the Supreme Court would also be the first African-American woman on the bench

Published February 25, 2022 12:14PM (EST)

The US Supreme Court in Washington, DC (SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
The US Supreme Court in Washington, DC (SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

In a historic decision the White House announced today, President Biden selected Ketanji Brown Jackson as his Supreme Court nominee. Jackson is the first Black woman nominated to the nation's highest court.

During her lengthy legal career, Jackson has enjoyed rare support from both sides of the political spectrum.

"Although our politics may differ, my praise for Ketanji's intellect, for her character, for her integrity, it is unequivocal," former House speaker Paul Ryan said of Jackson when she was announced on Friday.

Jackson attended famed Miami Palmetto High School in Miami, Florida which boasts alumni such as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and current U.S. surgeon general Vivek Murthy. During school, Jackson excelled as both debate team champion and student body president. "I want to go into law and eventually have a judicial appointment," Jackson penned in her high school yearbook. Jackson's father served as chief attorney for the Miami-Dade school board while her mother worked for 14 years as principal of a public magnet school.

Jackson graduated from Harvard Law school in 1996, where she served as editor of the Harvard Law Review and worked as a reporter and researcher for Time Magazine in New York. During her time at Harvard, Jackson met husband Patrick Jackson, who currently works as a surgeon at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. The couple have two daughters, one of which attends the prestigious Georgetown Day School in Washington D.C. 

Jackson's legal career took off shortly after graduation. The short list: three federal clerkships, employment at four elite law firms, two stints with the U.S. Sentencing Commission and two years as a public defender (a rare resume item for Supreme Court nominees).

Jackson's stand-out cases range from environmental issues, immigration and civil rights to the first amendment. In a famous 2019 decision she penned in Committee on the Judiciary v. McGahn, Jackson ruled that former White House counsel to Trump Don McGahn was required to testify on Russian interference in the 2016 election - despite Trump's attempts to block McGahn's testimony.

"Presidents are not kings," she wrote. "They do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control."

In 2001, she wrote an amicus brief for McGuire v. Reilly supporting the prohibition of anti-abortion protestors from harassing women visiting abortion clinics. And her short tenure as a public defender highlighted her commitment to legal education for low income defendants.

"I think that's really important for our entire justice system because it's only if people understand what they've done, why it's wrong, and what will happen to them if they do it again that they can really start to rehabilitate," Jackson said during her 2021 confirmation hearing to the D.C. Circuit.

Although Jackson rejects the notion that her race will play a significant role in her Supreme Court career, she does acknowledge the unique perspective she brings to the role. "I've experienced life in perhaps a different way than some of my colleagues because of who I am, and that might be valuable — I hope it would be valuable — if I was confirmed to the court," she stated.

Democrats aim to confirm Jackson's nomination in April. If all 50 Senate democrats vote in favor, Biden will not require Republican support. But the approval she received from Republicans Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski during her 2021 D.C. Circuit confirmation only stands to aid Jackson's confirmation.

"This is a moment of great pride and patriotism for our nation, as Judge Jackson makes history as the first Black woman selected to serve on the highest court in the land," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated. "Congress and the Country look forward to Judge Jackson receiving a fair and timely hearing, as well as a strong bipartisan vote in the Senate."

By Paige Harriss

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Joe Biden Ketanji Brown Jackson Supreme Court