Updated Feb 25, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Biden nominates Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court

udge Ketanji Brown Jackson speaks after she was nominated for Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, with President Biden, speaks after she was nominated for Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court, in the Cross Hall of the White House in Washington, DC, February 25, 2022. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden has nominated Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court, the White House announced Friday.

Why it matters: Jackson would be the first Black female justice in the court's history, and the first justice in decades with any significant experience representing criminal defendants.

Catch up quick: In many ways, Jackson has the resume we've come to expect from Supreme Court justices: Harvard Law, a Supreme Court clerkship, some time at prestigious corporate law firms, and a seat on the federal judiciary — specifically, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

  • She also served for two years as a federal public defender, and she was a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission at a time when that panel significantly rolled back federal sentencing guidelines for many drug offenses.

What they're saying: "For too long, our government, our courts, haven't looked like America," Biden said Friday while introducing Jackson.

  • "I believe it's time that we have a court reflects the full talents and greatness of our nation with a nominee of extraordinary qualifications, and that we inspire all young people to believe that they can one day serve their country at the highest level."
  • "Judge Jackson is an exceptionally qualified nominee as well as an historic nominee, and the Senate should move forward with a fair and timely hearing and confirmation," the White House said in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement: "With her exceptional qualifications and record of evenhandedness, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will be a Justice who will uphold the constitution and protect the rights of all Americans, including the voiceless and vulnerable."

  • "Once the President sends Judge Jackson’s nomination to the Senate, Senate Democrats will work to ensure a fair, timely, and expeditious process – fair to the nominee, to the Senate, and to the American public," he added.

In a statement, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said: "I voted against confirming Judge Jackson to her current position less than a year ago. Since then, I understand that she has published a total of two opinions, both in the last few weeks."

  • He added: "With that said, I look forward to carefully reviewing Judge Jackson’s nomination during the vigorous and thorough Senate process that the American people deserve."

Context: The Supreme Court rules all the time on the rights of suspected criminals, setting the rules of the road for everything from police searches to executions.

  • But not since Thurgood Marshall has there been a Supreme Court justice with any real experience as a defense lawyer in those kinds of cases.
  • The court's civil-libertarian wing is small, and a Justice Jackson would likely still lose a lot of those battles. But if she's confirmed, she'd bring a new set of relevant legal experiences to the court, in addition to being the first Black female justice.

What's next: Jackson's road to confirmation looks relatively smooth, at least at the outset.

  • The Senate confirmed her to the D.C. Circuit just last year, by a 53-44 vote. She's already made it through the wringer of the 50-50 Senate, and that's a pretty good indication that she can likely get confirmed this time, too.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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