Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson
Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson joined the U.S. Supreme Court on June 30, 2022, replacing Justice Stephen Breyer. Jackson (Ketanji Brown prior to her marriage) was born in Washington, D.C. on September 14, 1970. However, her family moved to South Florida, and she attended high school in Miami. Jackson graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1992, majoring in government. After a year off while she worked for Time magazine, she attended Harvard Law School. Jackson served as a supervising editor of the Harvard Law Review and graduated cum laude in 1996.
Staying in Massachusetts after her graduation, Jackson clerked at the U.S. District Court of the District of Massachusetts and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. She later clerked for Justice Stephen Breyer (whom she would eventually replace) on the Supreme Court in 1999-2000. Over the next decade, Jackson held a mixture of jobs in the private and public sectors. She served as an assistant special counsel to the U.S. Sentencing Commission in 2003-2005 and as an assistant federal public defender for the next two years. From 2010 to 2014, Jackson was a Vice Chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, a position to which she was appointed by President Barack Obama.
Jackson first served as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. President Obama nominated her for this position in September 2012, and she was confirmed in the spring of 2013. After eight years on this federal trial court, she was nominated by Democrat President Joseph Biden to fill a vacancy on the D.C. Circuit in April 2021. The Senate confirmed Jackson in June, but she would stay on the D.C. Circuit for only a year.
On February 28, 2022, President Biden nominated Jackson to the Supreme Court. Her confirmation hearings began a few weeks later. The Senate Judiciary Committee deadlocked 11-11 along party lines on advancing her nomination. This caused the Senate to hold a procedural vote, which came out 53-47 in favor of Jackson. (Three Republican senators joined all 50 Democrat Senators in supporting her.) The Senate confirmed Jackson by the same margin on April 7. She took her seat on June 30 on the date of Justice Breyer’s retirement. She voted on a case for the first time on July 21, and she first heard oral arguments on October 3.
Jackson is the first woman of color to sit on the Supreme Court. Although she is considered to be relatively liberal, she emphasizes a three-step methodology that she uses to preserve her impartiality. This involves making sure that she is proceeding from a position of neutrality, evaluating the facts and other appropriate materials, and then interpreting and applying the law to the facts. At her confirmation hearings, she said that “I am acutely aware that as a judge in our system, I have limited power, and I am trying in every case to stay in my lane.” Addressing constitutional interpretation, Jackson affirmed that “the Constitution is fixed in its meaning, [and] it’s appropriate to look at the original intent [and] original public meaning of the words.”