Who Is Ketanji Brown Jackson?
Ketanji Brown Jackson, born Ketanji Onyika Brown in 1970, is a former federal judge and public defender nominated by President Joe Biden to become an associate justice on the Supreme Court. She was the first Black woman to be nominated—and confirmed—for a seat on the high court. Jackson grew up in Miami and shared in her high school yearbook her goal to eventually receive a judicial appointment. She obtained both her undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard and is married to a fellow Harvard alum.
Supreme Court Nomination
On February 25, 2022, President Biden announced he was nominating Jackson to fill the Supreme Court seat left open by the retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer. The U.S. Senate voted to confirm her on April 7, 2022.
Though Jackson worked for several private law firms, she spent most of her legal career as a public servant. After earning her law degree from Harvard in 1996, she clerked for two federal judges. She held a Supreme Court clerkship for Justice Breyer during the 1999-2000 term.
Jackson took a job with the bipartisan U.S. Sentencing Commission in 2003, the first of her two stints on the commission. From 2005 to 2007, she worked as an assistant federal public defender in Washington, D.C. Her caseload included representing indigent clients and some detainees held at Guantanamo Bay.
Jackson returned to private practice before being selected to serve as vice-chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission in 2010. She was seen as a consensus builder in shaping federal sentencing policy at a time when federal prisons were over capacity. The commission came to a unanimous agreement to lower federal drug sentences and granted this relief retroactively.
Ascension to the Bench
In 2012, Jackson was nominated by President Barack Obama to join the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. The Senate confirmed her by voice vote in March 2013.
On this court, Jackson’s notable cases included a 2019 ruling that President Donald Trump‘s former White House counsel could not use executive privilege to avoid a congressional subpoena. Her decision noted, “Presidents are not kings.”