Who is Biden Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson?

Biden to nominate Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson for Supreme Court

Jackson would be the first Black woman to serve as a Supreme Court justice

President Biden’s Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson is a judge who’s respected by members of both parties, has a connection to a former GOP speaker of the House and is famous for handing former President Donald Trump a major judicial loss. 

Fox News confirmed Friday morning that Biden will choose Jackson for the seat of retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, a move that will make Jackson the first Black woman on the Supreme Court if she is confirmed. 

Jackson currently sits on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, where Biden nominated her less than a year ago to take the seat of Attorney General Merrick Garland. She was the most high-profile choice among Biden’s first round of judicial nominations.

Jackson was long been touted in progressive circles as a potential candidate for a future Supreme Court seat – and the president made that a reality Friday. 

Ketanji Brown Jackson, nominated to be a U.S. Circuit judge for the District of Columbia Circuit, is sworn in to testify before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, April 28, 2021.
(Kevin Lamarque-Pool/Getty Images)

Jackson comes with the kind of credentials seen in many Supreme Court nominees. She has a degree from Harvard Law School and a clerked with Breyer himself. She also clerked on the First Circuit before that and in the District of Massachusetts. 

She has experience in private practice, too, and was appointed to be the vice chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission in 2010. Before that, Jackson was a public defender from 2007 to 2010. 

Jackson was nominated to a federal district court by former President Barack Obama and confirmed in 2013 before Biden eventually selected her for the D.C. Circuit in 2021.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has produced several justices, including Brett Kavanaugh, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia and Chief Justice John Roberts. 

Jackson was confirmed 53-44 to her current post on the D.C. Circuit and by a voice vote in 2013 to the district court. 

At Jackson’s district court confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in late 2012, her brother-in-law introduced her. That brother-in-law was Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who became House speaker in 2015.

“I appreciate the opportunity to share my favorable recommendation for Ketanji Brown Jackson. I know she is clearly qualified,” Ryan said at the time. “Now, our politics may differ, but my praise for Ketanji’s intellect, for her character, for her integrity, it is unequivocal. She is an amazing person, and I favorably recommend your consideration.”

Jackson will now have her third Judiciary Committee hearing in the coming weeks. 

Perhaps her most high-profile opinion came on the D.C. District Court in the case between the House Judiciary Committee and former White House counsel Don McGahn. McGahn was ordered by Trump not to testify before the committee, despite a subpoena, citing executive privilege.  

Jackson ruled for the committee, that McGahn could be forced to testify.

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer at the White House on Jan. 27, 2022.
(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

“Stated simply, the primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that Presidents are not kings,” Jackson wrote in her ruling against McGahn. “This means that they do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control. Rather, in this land of liberty, it is indisputable that employees of the White House work for the People of the United States, and that they take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

The ruling was appealed for years, but McGahn and the committee eventually came to an agreement for his testimony.

Jackson was pushed for the Supreme Court nomination – and before that for her circuit court post – by activists associated with the progressive judicial group Demand Justice. 

“Jackson would bring more experience as a trial court judge than any sitting Supreme Court justice,” Demand Justice said of Jackson Friday. 

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer holds up a copy of the U.S. Constitution as he announces his retirement at the White House on Jan. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

Demand Justice included Jackson in a 2019 list of suggested Supreme Court nominees for Democratic presidential candidates. 

“Her qualifications are rather astounding,” Lena Zwarensteyn, the fair courts campaign senior director at the liberal Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said of Jackson in 2021. 

“She is somebody who definitely knows the impact that the laws and Constitution have on people’s lives and how those are lived and in the ways in which people’s rights may be protected,” Zwarensteyn added. “She demonstrated through a number of cases that I have a quick opportunity to review that she is fair-minded.”

Despite the support Jackson has from Democrats and even some GOP lawmakers, conservative activists are expected to push back hard on her nomination given the high stakes of a Supreme Court seat. 

“With the intended nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson, Joe Biden has made it clear that his top priority is paying back the left-wing dark money network that spent over one billion dollars to help elect him and Senate Democrats,” Carrie Severino, the president of the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, said. 

“Before he was elected, Biden campaigned on the promise of unity and moderation. But since taking office, he has continued to deliver radical extremism,” she added. “With the nomination of Jackson today, Biden continues to placate his liberal dark money friends.”

Fox News’ Chad Pergram contributed to this report. 

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