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5 things to know about Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson

President Joe Biden taps judge with Miami ties to become next Supreme Court justice
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson
Posted at 1:58 PM, Feb 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-25 18:15:16-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Joe Biden made a historic announcement Friday, nominating Ketanji Brown Jackson to become the next justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

If the Senate confirms Jackson, 51, she would become the first Black woman to serve on the nation's highest court.

Justice Thurgood Marshall was the first African American on the court, serving from October 1967 until October 1991, followed by Justice Clarence Thomas, who has been on the bench since 1991.

Jackson currently serves on Washington, D.C.,'s federal appellate court and was considered a front-runner for the vacancy after Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement in January.

Here are five things to know about Jackson:

1. South Florida Roots

Jackson was born in Washington, D.C., in 1970 but moved to Miami at an early age. She graduated from Miami's Palmetto Senior High School in 1988. The same high school of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.

Education and the law were the foundations of her early learning. Her father was the chief attorney for the Miami-Dade County School Board and her mother was a principal at New World School of the Arts in Miami.

After graduating high school, she left South Florida to attend Harvard University where she received her law degree in 1996.

2. Early Work After College

Jackson served as a law clerk in Massachusetts from 1996 to 1997 and then for a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit from 1997 to 1998. She later clerked for Breyer from 1999 to 2000.

After working in private legal practice, Jackson worked from 2003 to 2005 as an assistant special counsel to the United States Sentencing Commission.

She gained praise from 2005 to 2007 as an assistant federal public defender in Washington, D.C., handling cases before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Ketanji Brown Jackson
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, a U.S. Circuit Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, poses for a portrait, Friday, Feb., 18, 2022, in her office at the court in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

3. President Obama Nominations

President Barack Obama nominated Jackson on July 23, 2009, to become the vice-chair of the United States Sentencing Commission.

The U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed her nomination in 2010.

While on the commission, she worked to reduce sentencing guidelines for drug crimes, serving on the commission until 2014.

Obama later nominated Jackson in 2012 to serve as a judge for the U.S. district court for D.C.

She was confirmed by the Senate in 2013 and was sworn in by Breyer in May 2013.

Multiple media outlets reported that Obama interviewed Jackson as a potential high court nominee after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016.

That nomination would later go to Merrick Garland, but the GOP-led Senate never voted to confirm him, instead deciding controversially to allow the winner of that year's presidential election to decide on a court nominee. President Trump then nominated Neil Gorsuch for the job.

Ketanji Brown Jackson, nominated to be a U.S. Circuit Judge, April 28, 2021
In this Wednesday, April 28, 2021, file photo, Ketanji Brown Jackson, nominated to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit, testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on pending judicial nominations, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

4. Nomination To Court Of Appeals

President Joe Biden nominated Jackson in 2021 to serve as a circuit judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The seat was being vacated by Garland, who was nominated to become the U.S. attorney general.

She was confirmed by the Senate later that year for the position.

Her first decision on the court of appeals judge invalidated a 2020 rule by the Federal Labor Relations Authority. That rule had restricted the bargaining power of federal-sector labor unions.

5. Supreme Court Nomination

Following the announcement that Breyer would step down from the Supreme Court after serving since 1994, Biden announced that he would fulfill a campaign promise to nominate a Black woman to the high court.

Jackson was immediately named as a possible candidate for the position, along with California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger and U.S. District Court Judge Michelle Childs among others.

Biden announced Feb. 25 that he would nominate Jackson to fill Breyer's vacancy.
 
She would be only the sixth woman to serve on the court.

If she is confirmed, it would mean that for the first time four women would sit together on the bench, joining Sonya Sotomayor, Elana Kagan and Amy Coney Barrett.