Ketanji Brown Jackson is Biden’s pick for US Supreme Court

President Joe Biden nominates federal appeals court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to be the first Black woman on the US Supreme Court.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, a US Circuit Judge on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, poses for a portrait, on February, 18, 2022, in her office at the court in Washington.
If confirmed, US Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson would be one of two Black jurists and four women on the nine-member US high court [Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo]

President Joe Biden has nominated United States appeals court judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to become the first Black woman to serve on the US Supreme Court.

In nominating a Black woman, Biden is delivering on a 2020 campaign promise to make the historic appointment and to further diversify the US high court that was made up entirely of white men for almost two centuries.

“For too long, our government, our courts, haven’t looked like America,” Biden said, introducing Jackson as his nominee at the White House on Friday afternoon.

“It’s time that we have a court that reflects the full talents and greatness of our nation with a nominee of extraordinary qualifications,” he said.

Jackson, 51, would be the high court’s first former public defender, though she possesses an elite legal background. Jackson would be just the third Black justice in US history and only the sixth woman to serve on the court. Her likely confirmation by the Senate would mean that, for the first time, four women would sit together on the nine-member court.

Biden said Jackson is “one of our nation’s brightest legal minds and will be an exceptional Justice” in his announcement on Twitter.

Jackson would join the liberal minority of a conservative-dominated court that is weighing cutbacks to abortion rights, gun regulations and minority admissions by colleges while allowing states to impose voting rights restrictions.

In brief remarks at the White House, Jackson offered praise and thanks to her family and distinguished jurists she has served with. She twice offered thanks to God and gratitude for blessings bestowed in her life.

“I am truly humbled by the extraordinary honour of this nomination,” Jackson said. “I know that one can only come this far by faith.”

Biden is filling the seat that will be vacated by Justice Stephen Breyer, 83, who is retiring at the end of the term this summer. In replacing Breyer – one of the more liberal justices – Jackson would not tip the balance of the court, which now leans 6-3 in favor of conservatives.

Jackson once worked as one of Breyer’s law clerks early in her legal career. She attended Harvard as an undergraduate and for law school, and served on the US Sentencing Commission, the agency that develops federal sentencing policy, before becoming a federal judge in 2013.

“Justice Breyer not only gave me the greatest job that any young lawyer could ever hope to have, but he also exemplified every day, in every way, that a Supreme Court justice can perform at the highest level of skill and integrity, while also being guided by civility,” Jackson said.

US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer speaks as President Joe Biden listens during an announcement that Breyer will retire at the end of the court's current term, at the White House.
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer speaks as President Joe Biden listens during an announcement that Breyer will retire at the end of the court’s present term [Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

Biden had nominated Jackson as a member of the influential US Court of the Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last year.

In her short time on the appeals court, Jackson wrote two majority opinions, including one in favour of public sector unions challenging a regulation issued during Republican former President Donald Trump’s administration that restricted their bargaining power.

She was part of a three-judge panel that ruled in December against Trump’s bid to prevent White House records from being handed over to the House of Representatives committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol by a mob of his supporters. The Supreme Court last month declined to block that decision.

Her nomination is subject to confirmation by the 50-50 US Senate, where Democrats hold a razor-thin majority with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote. Democratic leaders have promised swift but deliberate consideration of the president’s nominee.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who had supported another candidate from his home state of South Carolina, expressed disappointment on Twitter.

US District Court Judge J Michelle Childs of South Carolina and California Supreme Court Justice Leondra R Kruger were considered by Biden for the nomination.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin has said that he wants the Senate to move quickly on the nomination, and senators have set a goal of confirmation by mid-April.

But that timeline could be complicated by developments between Russia and Ukraine and the extended absence of Democratic Senator Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, who suffered a stroke last month and is out for several weeks. Democrats would need Lujan’s vote to confirm Biden’s pick if no Republicans support her.

Justice Clarence Thomas, a conservative, is the other Black justice presently sitting on the court. The late Justice Thurgood Marshall, nominated by President Lyndon B Johnson in 1967, was the first and only other Black man to serve on the Supreme Court.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies