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Ketanji Brown Jackson. Photo Credit: TOM WILLIAMS-POOL/GETTY IMAGES
Ketanji Brown Jackson. Photo Credit: TOM WILLIAMS-POOL/GETTY IMAGES

Ketanji Brown Jackson is one step closer to becoming the first Black woman in the U.S. Supreme Court

President Joe Biden nominated the judge to replace the retiring Stephen Breyer.

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President Joe Biden announced Friday that he has nominated Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

The selection comes after Chief Justice Stephen Breyer announced his pending retirement in July, leaving a vacancy on the nine-person court. 

If confirmed as associate justice, Jackson would become the first Black woman to serve in the U.S. Supreme Court. She is currently a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, having been nominated to the court by Biden in April 2021, before being confirmed in June. 

“During this process, I looked for someone who, like Justice Breyer, has a pragmatic understanding that the law must work for the American people. Someone who has the historical perspective to understand that the Constitution is a resilient charter of liberty.  Someone with the wisdom to appreciate that the Constitution protects certain inalienable rights — rights that fall within the most fundamental personal freedoms that our society recognizes,” said Biden in a statement. 

This isn’t the first time Jackson has been a candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2016, after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, Jackson was one of five candidates interviewed as a potential nominee for the vacancy that ultimately went to Justice Neil Gorsuch. 

Biden noted why his historic nomination holds so much weight in today’s society. 

“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,” he said. 

Prior to being elevated to the court of appeals, Jackson served as a federal judge on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. She is also a former public defender, who served as a trial court judge in Washington. 

Jackson was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up in Miami, Florida. She is the daughter of public school teachers who later became leaders and administrators in the Miami-Dade Public School System.

A product of the same public school system herself, Jackson graduated from Miami Palmetto Senior High School, which then led her to graduate magna cum laude from Harvard University. She then went on to attend Harvard Law School, where she graduated cum laude and was also editor of the Harvard Law Review. 

In 1999, Jackson became a law clerk for Breyer, and helped shape federal sentencing policy in the U.S. Sentencing Commission after stints at private law firms.  

During her remarks at the White House, Jackson took the time to thank Breyer.

“Justice Breyer, in particular, 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, grace, pragmatism and generosity of spirit," she said. 

Many elected officials and political figures took to social media to extend their congratulations to Jackson, particularly those who have made history in their own right. 

This includes Barack Obama, the U.S.’s first Black president:

Cori Bush, who is the first Black woman to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives from Missouri: 

Elizabeth Warren, the first woman elected senator in Massachusetts:

Jackson is scheduled to meet with top Democratic and Republican senators this week as the confirmation process for the Supreme Court gets underway.  

If confirmed, Jackson’s appointment onto the U.S. Supreme Court could hopefully lay the foundation as a critical step in improving the judicial system, making it one that is just for all. 

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