Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Nomination and the Supreme Court Process


Website: The Guardian/Photograph: Kevin Lamarque

Matilda McLaren, Sports Editor, In-Depth Writer

On February 25, 2022, President Joe Biden nominated Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the official 116th Associate Justice seat of the United States Supreme Court. On April 7, 2022, a bipartisan collective of Senators substantiated Judge Jackson’s nomination, making her the first black woman to sit on the Supreme Court. Every member of the Democratic caucus and three Republican senators voted in favor of Jackson’s nomination, and 47 Republicans voted against.


Even before Jackson’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, she employed extensive experience in politics and law. In September of 2012, President Barack Obama recommended Jackson to serve as a judge on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, in a hearing where she was introduced by Republican Senator Paul Ryan. She was confirmed with bipartisan support less than a year later. On March 30, 2021, Biden announced his plan to nominate Jackson as a circuit judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Finally on June 14th, 2021 the Senate confirmed Jackson’s nomination in a 53-44 vote. 


It all began when Justice Stephen Breyer, originally nominated by President Bill Clinton and generally associated with the liberal wing of the Court, announced his retirement on January 26th of 2022. Since that point, President Biden has overseen a diligent process in search of a credible replacement for the vacant Supreme Court position. 


According to the official government website of the White House, Biden had been searching for an individual with, “exceptional credentials, unimpeachable character, and unwavering dedication to the rule of law.”



Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Background

Judge Jackson was born Ketanji Onyika Brown on September 14, 1970, in Washington, D.C., and grew up in Miami, Florida. Both of Jackson’s parents attended historically segregated schools as teenagers, so they sought to become pioneers and administrators in the school district that Jackson attended, the Miami-Dade Public School System. 


In a comment made by Jackson in 2017, she recalled fond memories of “sitting next to her father in their apartment as he tackled his law school homework- reading cases and preparing for Socratic questioning- while she undertook her preschool homework.” Therefore Jackson’s admiration for law began when she was very young. 


Judge Jackson also remembered several instances where she faced underlying discrimination as a woman of color in her adolescence. Notably, when Jackson told her high school guidance counselor that she wanted to pursue a law degree at Harvard University, the counselor advised that Judge Jackson should aim lower and not set her “sights so high”. 


These words did not discourage Judge Jackson from graduating magna cum laude from Harvard University, and then successively attending Harvard Law School, she earned her cum laude degree and was an editor of the Harvard Law Review publication for four years. 


Judge Jackson also worked in the U.S. Sentencing Commission like her mentor Justice Stephen Breyer. The U.S. Sentencing Commission is a commission that seeks to reduce unjust sentences and conduct research on the reason for various sentencing discrepancies that exist in the world. Jackson is also a celebrated public defender and a past Supreme Court Clerk to three federal jurists, one of whom was Justice Stephen Breyer. 


The Process of Instituting a Supreme Court Justice

Although the process of instituting a Supreme Court Justice may seem convoluted, it is actually quite simple. 


According to the official website of the Supreme Court of the United States, the President first nominates an individual for a vacancy on the Court, and the Senate votes to endorse the nomination through a majority. Through this process, the federal element of checks and balances permits both the Executive and Legislative Branches to play a role in the finalized composition of the Court. 


The Constitution holds that Justices “shall hold their Offices during good Behavior.” Essentially, Justices have a life-long tenure and can solely be removed from the position by the process of impeachment.