Biden Names Federal Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson As His Supreme Court Nominee

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Getty Images.

President Joe Biden on Friday named federal judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as his first nominee to 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,” the White House said in a statement.

If confirmed, she’ll be the first ever Black woman on the court. Biden promised to nominate a Black woman if given the chance during his 2020 campaign.

She will also be the first ever federal public defender named to the Court, which traditionally features former prosecutors and corporate lawyers.

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While her experience includes over eight years on the federal bench and a stint at the U.S. Sentencing Commission, it’s her tenure as a public defender that attracted both scrutiny and praise during her confirmation hearing for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

“There is a direct line from my defender service to what I do on the bench, and I think it’s beneficial,” Jackson said during the hearing last year.

If confirmed, she’d be the first Supreme Court Justice since Thurgood Marshall to have extensive experience in criminal defense. 

One of Jackson’s most well-known opinions came in 2019, when she ordered former White House Counsel Don McGahn to testify before the House Judiciary Committee about Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“Presidents are not kings,” she wrote. “This means that they do not have subjects bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control.”

She was widely seen as a likely Supreme Court contender when Biden elevated her last summer, taking now-Attorney General Merrick Garland’s seat on the esteemed D.C. appellate court.

Besides her credentials and expertise, a likely attractive feature of Jackson’s candidacy for the comity-loving Biden is her potential bipartisan appeal. During her confirmation to the appellate court just months ago, three Republicans voted for her: Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Despite his recent vote, Graham said upon hearing reports of her pending nomination that Biden had been won over by the “radical left” in selecting her.

Democrats are aiming to have her confirmed by Congress’ Easter recess, scheduled to begin April 11. The next step will be Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. Senators will question Jackson and bring in outside witnesses. 

The committee will then vote on her nomination, the juncture where Republicans could potentially derail the process. The Judiciary committee is evenly split, meaning Republicans could take a leaf out of the book of their peers on the Senate Banking Committee and boycott the committee vote. Democrats would have to approve a rule change to circumvent the blockade and send the nomination to the Senate floor. 

There, they can approve the nominee with a party-line vote, thanks to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blowing up the filibuster in 2017 to ease the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch. It’ll be the first time Democrats get to take advantage of the lowered threshold. 

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