Supreme Court Nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, has been a trailblazer all her life

President Biden has selected Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as his Supreme Court nominee to fill the seat left when Judge Stephen Breyer retires this summer.

At a White House event Friday introducing Jackson, Biden described her as a consensus-builder with a “pragmatic understanding that the law must work for the American people.”

Jackson, 51, has led a professional and personal life at once classic and unpredictable. Unlike most judges, her background is not as a prosecutor or major corporate lawyer, and her personal life also defies stereotypes.

Professionally, she is an experienced judge. For eight years, she served as a federal trial court judge and last June was confirmed for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Prior to her becoming a judge, her legal experience was extensive and varied. While four members of the current court were at one time prosecutors, Jackson, if nominated, would be the first Supreme Court justice since Thurgood Marshall to have represented indigent criminal defendants.

At the White House event, Jackson opened her remarks by saying she was humbled by the nomination, noting that it came at a time when there was a lot going on in the world.

In 2012, Jackson was nominated for a seat on the federal trial court. Her confirmation went smoothly with numerous lawyers on the right, as well as the left, supporting the nomination. She was confirmed for the trial court by a voice vote in 2013.

Jackson’s nomination to the D.C. Circuit also went relatively smoothly after she was nominated by President Biden last year., Still, she got quite a grilling from some conservative senators on the Judiciary Committee. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., for instance, asked her this question: “Do you think that the U.S. criminal justice system is systemically racist or is infected with systematic racism and bias?”

“Those are not terms that I use in the law when we look at issues of race,” she replied, adding that in examining whether there has been race discrimination, courts “will generally look for attorneys to prove up discriminatory intent, discriminatory impact, in some cases, retaliation. There is no Supreme Court doctrine that speaks to systemic racism,” and those “aren’t words that I’ve ever used in a court of law to make claims based under the constitution or the applicable statutes. “

In the end, she was confirmed by a vote of 53-44, with three Republican senators supporting her — Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and the Judiciary Committee ranking Republican, Lindsey Graham.

On the appeals court, she most recently was part of a unanimous panel that upheld a congressional subpoena for White House records related to the Jan. 6 riots. When Trump appealed to the Supreme Court, the justices left the lower court ruling intact.

Jackson was born in Washington, D.C., where her parents were schoolteachers. They soon moved to Miami, where her father went to law school and rose to become the school board’s top lawyer, while her mother became a school principal. One of her earliest memories of the law, she has said, was sitting next to her father in the evening while he studied law books and she worked on her coloring books.

In high school, Jackson was a national oratory champion, then graduated with honors from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, where she was an editor on the law review. She clerked for three federal judges, including Justice Breyer, the man she will replace.

Jackson met her husband, Patrick Jackson, when the two were at Harvard College. He was, she says, her first “serious boyfriend” and has remained that ever since. They have two daughters.

At first blush, they look like an improbable couple.

Judge Brown said in that Georgia speech that being a federal judge was always her “dream job.” But after Obama nominated her in 2012, actually getting that job depended entirely on events beyond her control, namely Obama’s reelection.

“And when you add to that,” she said, “the fact that I am related by marriage to … Paul Ryan [then the House speaker], who was at that point running for vice president against President Obama, you can get the sense of what that period was like for me.”

As difficult as that confirmation may have seemed at the time, it may in hindsight be something of a picnic compared to what she is likely to face her as a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Source: NPR Click here for the full story


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