Ketanji Brown Jackson Makes Supreme Court History

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Judge Jackson is the first Black female Supreme Court Justice (Credit: Whitehouse.gov/Public Domain)

On April 7, 2022, the U.S. Senate voted 53-47 to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as the 116th Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The 51-year-old is the first African American woman and only the sixth female to serve on the nation's highest court.

Judge Jackson will join fellow female Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Amy Barrett. This is the first time four women will serve on the Supreme Court simultaneously.

"Judge Jackson's confirmation was a historic moment for our nation. We've taken another step toward making our highest court reflect the diversity of America. She will be an incredible Justice, and I was honored to share this moment with her," President Joe Biden wrote on Twitter.

The daughter of two high school teachers, Jackson was born in Washington, DC and grew up in Miami, Florida. She was just in preschool when her father decided to switch careers and go to law school. However, the experience left a lasting impression on the young girl.

She says, "It was my father who started me on this path when I was a child. My father made the fateful decision to transition from his job as a public high school history teacher and go to law school. Some of my earliest memories are of him sitting at the kitchen table, reading his law books. I watched him study, and he became my first professional role model."

Retiring Justice Stephen Breyer with Judge Jackson (Credit: Whitehouse.gov/Public Domain)

Judge Jackson was extremely popular with her peers at Miami Palmetto Senior High School and repeatedly elected class president. A brilliant student, she excelled at debate and speech — activities that set her up "for future success in law and in life."

Like most women of color, Judge Jackson had her share of naysayers. When she expressed her dream of going to Harvard to her high school guidance counselor, she was warned not to set "sights so high." But that did not deter the then 18-year-old, whose yearbook quote said, "I want to go into law and eventually have a judicial appointment."

She graduated from Harvard University in 1992 with a B.A. in Government, magna cum laude, and then went on to earn her J.D., cum laude, from Harvard Law School in 1996. Her impressive law career includes clerking for three federal judges appointed by presidents of both political parties. Judge Jackson also worked as a federal public defender, representing defendants who could not afford to hire a private lawyer.

Before being appointed to the Supreme Court, Judge Jackson served on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit — the equivalent of a state supreme court. The DC Circuit Court is considered more powerful than the other 12 circuit courts. It deals with highly sensitive and important issues such as national security, election law, and clean air regulations.

At the April 8, 2022, White House ceremony celebrating her historic appointment, an emotional Judge Jackson said, "It has taken 232 years and 115 prior appointments for a Black woman to be selected to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. But we've made it. We've made it—all of us. And our children are telling me that they see now more than ever that here in America, anything is possible. They also tell me that I am a role model, which I take both as an opportunity and as a huge responsibility."

While she has been confirmed, Judge Jackson will not take the bench immediately. She will be sworn in after Justice Stephen Breyer, who she is replacing, retires sometime in June or early July.

Resources: CNN.com. Politico.com, AFJ., org

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