Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson— First Black Woman Nominated for the Supreme Court

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Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson speaks after President Joe Biden announced her nomination to the Supreme Court in the Cross Hall of the White House.

On February 25th, 2022 history was made as President Joe Biden nominated Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who, if confirmed, will become the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court, established by the U.S. Constitution and the Judiciary Act of 1789, is the highest level of the judiciary of the judicial branch. The Judiciary Act of 1789, officially titled “An Act to Establish the Judicial Courts of the United States,” was signed into law by former President George Washington September 24th, 1789. The act established a three-part judiciary made up of district courts, circuit courts, and finally the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, having withstood over two centuries, has remained the most similar to its initial creation than any of the other branches of government. 

Of the one-hundred-fifteen justices who have served on the court, four have been women, and two have been Black. Justice Thurgood Marshall was the first African-American to serve, followed by Clarence Thomas as the second. In 2010, for the first time, three women served on the Supreme Court at the same time: Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson would replace Justice Stephen Breyer, who was nominated by former President Bill Clinton and has served on the Supreme Court since 1994.

According to, “President Biden Nominates Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to Serve as Associate Justice for the U.S. Supreme Court” from the WhiteHouse and published February 25th, “Judge Jackson was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up in Miami, Florida.  Her parents attended segregated primary schools in the South, then attended Historically Black Colleges and Universities.  Both started their careers as public school teachers and became leaders and administrators in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools.  When Judge Jackson told her high school guidance counselor she wanted to attend Harvard, the guidance counselor warned that Judge Jackson should not set her sights “so high.” That didn’t stop Judge Jackson. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College, then attended Harvard Law School, where she graduated cum laude and was an editor of the Harvard Law Review.”

After graduation she served in Justice Breyer’s chambers as a law clerk. She will be the court’s first public defender, having served as a representative for defendants who did not have a lawyer from 2005-2007. 

Judge Jackson worked on the U.S. sentencing commission prior to serving as a Judge. The Sentencing Commission, a bipartisan body which President Biden fought to create while a member of the Senate. There, her work was focused on reducing sentencing disparities and assuring all rulings were just and proportionate. She became a federal judge in 2013.

If confirmed, she will be the second African-American member, following Clarence Thomas. As well as the sixth woman, joining three others, including the first Latina, Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

February 25th, President Biden announced his nomination for the Supreme Court in the halls of the White House. He was accompanied by Vice President Harris and Judge Jackson on either side. 

According to the transcript “Remarks by President Biden on his Nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to serve as Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court” from the WhiteHouse, 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,” said President Biden.

“Not only did she learn about being a judge from Justice Breyer himself, she saw the great rigor through which Justice Breyer approached his work.  She learned from his willingness to work with colleagues with different viewpoints — critical qualities for — in my view, for any Supreme Court Justice. Now, years later, she steps up to fill Justice Breyer’s place on the Court with a uniquely accomplished and wide-ranging background.”

Judge Jackson would be entering the Supreme Court during a time of polarizing issues such as abortion rights, affirmative action, and the role of race in drawing districts.

According to the NYTimes article “Judge Jackson’s rulings: Detailed, Methodical, and Leaning Left,” published February 25th, “A review of a substantial sample of Judge Jackson’s roughly 500 judicial opinions suggests that she would be about as liberal as the member of the court she hopes to replace, Justice Stephen G. Breyer. That would make her a reliable member of what would continue to be a three-member liberal minority on a court that is dominated by six conservative justices.”

Judge Jackson has sat on a three-judge panel of the appeals court that rejected former President Trump executive privilege to release documents relating to the Jan.6 capitol riot to a House committee.

She also called for a former White House counsel of Trump, Donald F. McGahn II to  testify about a “pattern of presidential obstruction of justice” as said by House Democrats. Judge Jackson believes that close advisors of the president do not have power over the law, saying that federal courts have the ability to resolve conflicts between the other branches.

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

Judge Jackson has met dissent as her nomination was announced, most notably from Conservative sources, who claim the nomination is a “threat to Constitutional Rights.”

“We believe that those who believe that nominating Judge Kentanji Brown as Supreme Court justice is a threat to their constitutional rights are just fearful of strong intelligent black women and just women being in positions of power,” commented Leila Bass, a Sophmore, and a member of Parkview’s Black Student Union. “Those who believe this must not know that Judge Brown was a public defender. She knows more than most how to protect our constitutional rights!”

Judge Jackson’s nomination feeds hope for a system that truly reflects America. 

As stated by the February 28th article from NBCNews “The big changes Ketanji Brown Jackson’s presence could bring to the Supreme Court,” “Judicial diversity does not merely change how a court looks. It changes how a court acts. Limited, homogenous groups are ill-equipped to serve broad, diverse populations — especially when that very diversity directly shapes their rights and influences their material conditions. Expanding the historically narrow pool of who gets to be on our courts can also expand the similarly narrow pool of who the courts often serve.”