5 Things to Know About Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson

Jackson will replace Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who has been on the Court since 1994

President Biden Nominates Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson To U.S. Supreme Court
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This post was first published on Feb. 25, 2022, after Jackson’s nomination.

President Joe Biden nominated Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 25. She was the first Black woman to be nominated to the nation’s highest court and now becomes the first Black woman Supreme Court justice to serve on the court after Thursday’s Senate confirmation vote.

President Biden called her confirmation a “historic moment” for the United States.

“We’ve taken another step toward making our highest court reflect the diversity of America,” Biden captioned a photo on Twitter of himself posing with Jackson.

Jackson will replace Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who has been on the Court since 1994.

Here are five things to know about the future Justice.

She is a Harvard graduate with an extensive background in U.S. sentencing policy

Jackson graduated from magna cum laude from Harvard University. She then attended Harvard Law School, where she graduated cum laude and was also an editor of the “Harvard Law Review.”

She previously served as a federal public defender, where she argued cases before the U.S. Court of Appeals — which is the same court where she now sits. In 2009, she was nominated by former President Barack Obama to serve as Vice Chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

During her time as vice chair, the sentencing commission voted to decrease the disparity in federal sentencing laws for cocaine distribution created by the Anti-Drug abuse Act of 1986.

She previously replaced Attorney General Merrick Garland in the U.S. Court of Appeals

Jackson will take her seat on the Supreme Court after serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. She took over seat from Garland last year after he was appointed as Attorney General for the Biden Administration.

Garland, who has known Jackson since she was a public defender, had called her nomination to the Supreme Court “an outstanding choice.”

“I have witnessed firsthand her exceptional abilities as both a lawyer and a judge, her commitment to the rule of law and equal justice under the law, and her generosity of spirit,” Garland said in a statement.

She is now replacing her former boss

At the start of her career, Jackson worked for one year as a Supreme Court clerk for Justice Breyer in 1999. Breyer also swore her in when she became a federal judge, 17 years after her clerkship.

“Moreover, this is a family affair. This is a judicial family affair,” Breyer told the audience at the time, after praising Obama for the “wise” decision to appoint her to the position, according to The Boston Globe.

She is a Washington, D.C. native but grew up in Florida

Jackson was born in Washington, D.C. Her parents were both public school teachers who became leaders in the Miami-Dade Public School System. She was a member of the debate team at Miami Palmetto Senior High School.

When Jackson was in preschool, her father went to law school. During a 2017 speech, she traced her interest in law all the way back to watching her father reading cases and preparing for his own law school classes.

She is related by marriage to former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan

Jackson’s husband, Patrick G. Jackson, is the twin brother of William Jackson, who is married to the sister of Ryan’s wife, Janna.

Following her nomination in February, the former Republican Congressman shared his support for Jackson on social media.

“Janna and I are incredibly happy for Ketanji and her entire family,” he wrote. “Our politics may differ, but my praise for Ketanji’s intellect, for her character, and for her integrity, is unequivocal.”

It wasn’t the first time he’s backed Jackson. In 2012, he testified on her behalf during a U.S. Senate confirmation hearing for a district court opening.