Since Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement, President Biden has conducted a rigorous process to identify his replacement. President Biden sought a candidate with exceptional credentials, unimpeachable character, and unwavering dedication to the rule of law. And the President sought an individual who is committed to equal justice under the law and who understands the profound impact that the Supreme Court’s decisions have on the lives of the American people.
That is why the President nominated Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to serve as the next Justice on the Supreme Court. Judge Jackson is one of our nation’s brightest legal minds and has an unusual breadth of experience in our legal system, giving her the perspective to be an exceptional Justice.
About Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson
Judge Jackson was born in Washington, DC and grew up in Miami, Florida. Her parents attended segregated primary schools, then attended historically black colleges and universities. Both started their careers as public school teachers and became leaders and administrators in the Miami-Dade Public School System. When Judge Jackson was in preschool, her father attended law school. In a 2017 lecture, Judge Jackson traced her love of the law back to sitting next to her father in their apartment as he tackled his law school homework—reading cases and preparing for Socratic questioning—while she undertook her preschool homework—coloring books.
Judge Jackson stood out as a high achiever throughout her childhood. She was a speech and debate star who was elected “mayor” of Palmetto Junior High and student body president of Miami Palmetto Senior High School. But like many Black women, Judge Jackson still faced naysayers. When Judge Jackson told her high school guidance counselor she wanted to attend Harvard, the guidance counselor warned that Judge Jackson should not set her “sights so high.”
That did not stop Judge Jackson. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University, then attended Harvard Law School, where she graduated cum laude and was an editor of the Harvard Law Review.
Judge Jackson lives with her husband, Patrick, and their two daughters, in Washington, DC.
Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit
Judge Jackson was one of President Biden’s first judicial nominees. She was confirmed with bipartisan support to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 2021.
Judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
President Obama nominated Judge Jackson to be a district court judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in 2012. She was confirmed with bipartisan support in 2013.
Vice Chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission
President Obama nominated Judge Jackson to serve as the Vice Chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission in 2009, and she was confirmed with bipartisan support in 2010. Prior to serving as a judge, Judge Jackson followed in the footsteps of her mentor Justice Breyer by working on the U.S. Sentencing Commission. The Commission, which President Biden fought to create as a member of the U.S. Senate, is bipartisan by design. Her work there focused on reducing unwarranted sentencing disparities and ensuring that federal sentences were just and proportionate.
Judge Jackson represented defendants who did not have the means to pay for a lawyer. She would be the first former federal public defender to serve on the Supreme Court.
Supreme Court Clerk
Judge Jackson served as Justice Breyer’s law clerk, and learned up close how important it is for a Supreme Court Justice to build consensus and speak to a mainstream understanding of the Constitution.
Perspective on the Legal System
Because of her diverse and broad public service, Judge Jackson has a unique appreciation of how critical it is for the justice system to be fair and impartial. With multiple law enforcement officials in her family, she also has a personal understanding of the stakes of the legal system. After serving in the U.S. Army and being deployed to Iraq and Egypt, Jackson’s brother served as a police officer in Baltimore and two of her uncles were police officers in Miami.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
Judge Jackson comes from a law enforcement family, with two uncles who were career law enforcement officers: one was a Miami-Dade County sex crimes detective, and the other rose through the ranks of the City of Miami Police Department to become the Chief of Police. Her brother served as an undercover officer in a drug-sting unit in Baltimore after graduating from college, so she should know quite well the difficulties and dangers our officers face in the line of duty every single day … From our analysis of Judge Jackson’s record and some of her cases, we believe she has considered the facts and applied the law consistently and fairly on a range of issues. There is little doubt that she has the temperament, intellect, legal experience, and family background to have earned this appointment. We are reassured that, should she be confirmed, she would approach her future cases with an open mind and treat issues related to law enforcement fairly and justly. We wish her well as the confirmation process begins.
Ketanji Brown Jackson is an outstanding jurist and person. Brilliant, fair, and a true and real person. She will be an immense credit to the Court and our country.
Judge Jackson by all accounts possesses the qualities essential in a Supreme Court justice: a devotion to the rule of law; a commitment to judicial independence; an ability and willingness to collaborate with colleagues whose views and philosophies differ from her own. She also appears to be a keen and careful legal thinker. A graduate of Harvard and Harvard Law School, she was an editor of the law review and went on to clerk for Justice Stephen G. Breyer, whom Mr. Biden has chosen her to replace. She put in eight years as a trial judge before ascending to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 2021.
Many of us and our colleagues have interacted with Judge Jackson and have found her to possess incredible intellect, excellent legal ability, and a commitment to the highest ethical and professional standards. Throughout her career, she has promoted compassion, dignity, and respect for all parties. As demonstrated by her eight years on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Judge Jackson is a fair and impartial jurist. She has authored more than 560 judicial decisions, adjudicating her fair share of complex legal questions in ways that have significantly advanced the legal profession and our understanding of principles enshrined in the Constitution. Her decisions are invariably well-reasoned and thoughtful, and she is singularly prepared to assume the role of appellate jurist.
Judge Jackson, who currently serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, has outstanding qualifications to serve on the Supreme Court. Her impressive legal career has provided her with many opportunities; and she has experienced the justice system from all perspectives - as a federal appellate judge, district court judge, vice-chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, private practitioner, assistant public defender, and U.S. Supreme Court clerk for Associate Justice Stephen Breyer. Her outstanding academic credentials, integrity, and commitment to following the facts, impartiality, fairness, and the rule of law are the qualities essential to serving on the Supreme Court.
I want to congratulate Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on her nomination to the Supreme Court. Judge Jackson has already inspired young Black women like my daughters to set their sights higher, and her confirmation will help them believe they can be anything they want to be.
Judge Jackson has a demonstrated record of excellence, and I believe, based upon her work as a trial judge when I served on the Court of Appeals, that she will adjudicate based on the facts and the law and not as a partisan.
As lawyers and others who have served in appointed positions in Republican administrations or hold conservative political or legal views, we write to urge the speedy confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to serve on the Supreme Court. Many of us know her personally, have appeared before her, or have served in legal organizations with her. While some of us might differ concerning particular positions she has taken as a judge, we are united in our view that she is exceptionally well-qualified, given her breadth of experience, demonstrated ability, and personal attributes of intellect and character. Indeed, we think that her confirmation on consensus basis would strengthen the Court and the nation in important ways.
About the Nomination Process
What criteria did President Biden use to pick his nominee?
President Biden conducted a rigorous process to identify Justice Breyer’s replacement. As the longtime Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the President took seriously the Constitution’s requirement that he make this appointment “by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate,” seeking the advice of Senators in both parties. He studied the histories and case records of candidates and consulted legal experts. Confirming exceptionally qualified judicial nominees with varying backgrounds and experiences has been a key priority for the President since he took office.
President Biden sought a candidate with exceptional credentials, unimpeachable character, and unwavering dedication to the rule of law. He also sought a nominee—much like Justice Stephen Breyer—who is wise, pragmatic, and has a deep understanding of the Constitution as an enduring charter of liberty. And finally, the President sought an individual who is committed to equal justice under the law who understands the profound impact that the Supreme Court’s decisions can have on the lives of the American people.
On February 25, 2022, President Joe Biden nominated Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to become the 116th Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
On April 7, 2022, a bipartisan group of Senators confirmed Judge Jackson's nomination.