Written by COLIN LONG, MICHAEL BALM and ZIC MILLER
WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden on Friday nominated Federal Court of Appeals Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court, making her the first black woman elected to work in a court that once declared her race unworthy of citizenship and approved the segre.
Introducing Jackson, Biden called her a “proven builder of consensus” who has a “pragmatic understanding that the law should work for the benefit of the American people.”
“She strives to be fair, to seek justice,” the president added.
In Jackson, Biden is fulfilling his campaign promise to make a historic appointment and further diversify the court, which for nearly two centuries has consisted entirely of white people. He has chosen a lawyer who will be the first former public defender in the Supreme Court, although she also has the elite legal experience of other judges.
Jackson would become the second black judge of the current court – Judge Clarence Thomas, Conservative, second – and only third in history. She will replace Liberal Judge Stephen Breer, 83, who is retiring this summer, so she will not change the 6-3 Conservative majority in court.
Jackson will join the court as he considers reducing abortion rights, and will consider ending the positive action in college admissions and limiting voting rights efforts to increase minority representation.
She would only be the sixth woman to work on the court, but she will join the other three already there, including the first Latin American, Judge Sonny Sotomayor.
In short, Jackson thanked Biden, saying she was “humiliated by the extraordinary pride of this nomination.” She highlighted her family’s direct experience with the entire legal system, as judges and lawyers, a prisoner member and police officers.
Standing next to Biden in the White House, she spoke about the historical nature of her candidacy, noting that she shared a birthday with Constance Baker Motley, the first black woman to be approved on a federal bench.
“If I am fortunate enough to be approved as the next Assistant Judge of the United States Supreme Court, I can only hope that my life and career, my love for this country and the Constitution, and my commitment to uphold the rule of law and sacred principles on which This great nation was founded, it will inspire future generations of Americans, ”Jackson said.
Jackson, 51, once worked as one of Breyer’s lawyers early in his legal career. She studied at Harvard as an undergraduate and law school, and also served on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, an agency that develops federal sentencing policy before becoming a federal judge in 2013.
Her candidacy must be confirmed by the Senate, where Democrats have a majority by a small margin of 50 to 50 with Vice President Kamala Harris. Party leaders have promised to consider the presidential candidacy quickly but thoughtfully.
The news came two years after Biden, who then vigorously seized the Democratic presidential nomination, promised during a debate in South Carolina to nominate a black woman if a vacancy arises.
“Everyone needs to be represented,” Biden said at the time.
Senate Legal Committee Chairman Dick Durbin said in a statement that the board would “immediately begin” moving forward to consider an “emergency candidacy.” The senators have set an indicative goal to approve by April 8, when they will go on a two-week spring break. The hearings may start in mid-March.
The deadline could be complicated by a number of things, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the long absence of Democrat Senator Ben Ray Luhan of New Mexico, who suffered a stroke last month and dropped out for weeks. Democrats will need Luhan’s vote to confirm Biden’s election if it is not supported by any Republican.
Once the candidacy is submitted to the Senate, the Senate Judicial Committee must review the candidacy and hold a hearing on the approval. Once the committee approves the candidacy, it goes to the Senate for a final vote.
Democrats Biden and the Senate are hoping for a bipartisan vote on the nomination, but it is unclear whether they will be able to defeat any Republican senators after fierce party battles for confirmation led by President Donald Trump. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of three Republicans who voted to confirm Jackson in the Court of Appeals last year, pushed Biden to nominate another candidate from his home state, Judge J. Michelle Childs, who was also liked by the state. MP James Kleiburn, Biden’s ally.
Earlier this month, Graham said his vote would have been “very problematic” if it had been someone else, and expressed disappointment on Twitter on Friday that Biden had not put forward his preferred choice. Previewing the likely line of attack by Republicans, he and several others on the right said Biden was choosing the “radical left.”
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said he was looking forward to meeting with Jackson and “studying her reputation, legal views and judicial philosophy.” But he noted that a year ago he voted against it.
Biden said he was interested in choosing a candidate in Breyer’s uniform who could be a persuasive force for colleagues. Although Breyer’s voices tended to put him center-left on an increasingly conservative court, he often saw gray in situations where colleagues were more likely to find black or white.
“Judge Breer, members of the Senate, will decide if I take your place,” Jackson said, praising the “civilized, sophisticated, pragmatic and generous spirit of the retiring judge.”
“But please know that I will never be able to fill your shoes,” she said.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said: “With her exceptional qualifications and ruthlessness, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will become a judge who will uphold the Constitution and protect the rights of all Americans, including the voiceless and vulnerable. Judge Jackson’s historic nomination is an important step towards ensuring that the Supreme Court reflects the nation as a whole. “
As part of the search process, Biden, who is a longtime chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also interviewed Childs and California Supreme Court Justice Leandra Kruger, according to a person familiar with the matter. He also consulted with a wide range of legal experts and legislators on both sides and delved deeply into the legal articles of the finalists.
Jackson works at the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia, a position where Biden promoted her last year from a previous job as a judge of a federal court of first instance. The three current judges – Thomas, Brett Cavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts – previously served on the same appellate court.
Jackson was confirmed in the post by a Senate vote of 53-44, receiving the support of three Republicans: Graham, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
In one of Jackson’s most high-profile decisions as a trial judge, she ordered former White House attorney Don McGann to appear before Congress. This was a failure in Trump’s efforts to prevent the testimony of his top aides. The case was appealed, and a deal was eventually reached on McGann’s testimony.
As a judge of the Court of Appeals, she was a member of a panel of three judges that ruled in December against Trump’s efforts to defend documents from the House of Representatives Committee to Investigate the January 6, 2021 Capitol Uprising.
Jackson was born in Washington, DC, and grew up in Miami. She said her parents, Johnny and Ellery Brown, chose her name to pay tribute to her family’s African descent. They asked the aunt, who was at the time in the Peace Corps in Africa, to send a list of names of African girls, and they chose Ketanji Onyka, which they were told to mean “sweetheart”.
Jackson traces her interest in law when she was in preschool and her father was in law school and they sat together at a table, she with coloring books and he with law books. Her father became an attorney for the county school board, and her mother was a high school principal. The brother, nine years younger, served in the military, including in Iraq, and is now also a lawyer.
Associated Press authors Mark Sherman, Jessica Gresco and Mary Claire Jalonik contributed to this report.