The U.S. Supreme Court lost its most senior liberal member after Justice Stephen Breyer decided to step down at the age of 83. With the expectation that a Black woman would be Justice Breyer’s replacement, reports emerged Friday (Feb. 25) that President Joe Biden is set to name Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as the nominee for Breyer’s seat on the bench.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson currently sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, an especially prominent federal position to hold as a jurist. Her appointment to the federal bench was notable and elevated her among some observers as a potential Supreme Court justice. Below, we’ve shared some highlights of Judge Brown Jackson’s life and the trajectory of her career.
Brown Jackson was born in Washington, D.C. on September 14, 1970, and was raised in Miami, Fla. Brown Jackson’s father, Johnny Brown, was the chief attorney for the Miami-Dade County School Board. Her mother, Ellery Btown, was a principal of the New World School of the Arts. Brown Jackson earned her undergraduate degree in 1992 from Harvard University and went on to work briefly as a staff reporter for Time magazine before entering Harvard Law School where she earned her law degree in 1996. While in law school, Brown Jackson was a supervising editor of the prestigious Harvard Law Review publication.
Brown Jackson served as a law clerk to Judge Patti B. Saris of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts before moving on to clerk for Judge Bruce M. Selya of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. In 1999, Brown Jackson clerked for Justice Breyer until 2000.
From 2005 to 2007, Brown Jackson served as a public defender, a point to highlight as President Biden made a commitment to bring public defenders to the federal bench. In 2010, President Barack Obama appointed Brown Jackson to the U.S. Sentencing Commission where she served as vice-chair. Obama later appointed her to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia bench.
President Biden appointed Brown Jackson to her current role in 2021.
Brown Jackson was a popular choice to replace Breyer and her qualifications are noteworthy. Brown Jackson will have to face a U.S. Senate where the Democratic Party holds a thin margin. However, Brown Jackson has enjoyed bipartisan support in the past during her rise to the federal bench. During her appointment hearing for the appellate court bench, a handful of Republican senators showed their support.
Additionally, Brown Jackson’s nomination is thought by some observers as a potential boost to the Democratic Party’s midterm elections outlook as the base appears less than engaged. Beyond the elections, the high court’s bench’s conservative majority was boosted significantly during the Trump administration and Brown Jackson’s potential appointment won’t shift the 6-3 advantage.
Conservative pundits will undoubtedly dig deep into Brown Jackson’s journey within the legal system, and the dissent among liberals regarding Biden’s agenda will also be exploited. Brown Jackson is related by marriage to former Republican Party star Paul D. Ryan, who spoke in support of her during her district court nomination process in 2012. Perhaps this will signal a hopeful swing of bipartisan support during the confirmation hearing.