As promised, President Joe Biden’s pick for the Supreme Court is a Black woman.
Fifty-one-year-old Ketanji Brown Jackson, if approved, would be the high court’s first former public defender and first Black woman to become a Supreme Court justice. She’s currently a Federal Appeals court judge in D.C.
“She’s no stranger to the Supreme Court. She was a law clerk there for Stephen Breyer. That’s the man she’s been nominated to succeed,” NBC News Justice Correspondent Pete Williams said.
Chryl Laird, an assistant professor in government and politics at the University of Maryland-College Park, and co-author of “Steadfast Democrats: How Social Forces Shape Black Political Behavior,” said that the move was a “historic signal” when you think about representation on the court.
“In our recent history, we’ve been seeing a lot of change to a court that has been historically an institution that has been represented by white, cisgender men who come from privileged backgrounds or Ivy League prestige,” Laird told WTOP.
Laird added that this demographic representation hasn’t been there and having someone present in the court who is a voice, even in the minority opinion, signals the creation of a more representative body. Likewise, she said, the judicial experiences of those justices will shift with the inclusion of Jackson.
“Putting more representatives on the court who have lived those experiences who can offer perspective like Ketanji Brown Jackson,” she said, “having had previous experience as a public defender, working for criminal justice cases, dealing with people within her own family who have had issues within the criminal justice system, I think provides a lens and an understanding of the law that has been very much lacking in the history of the court.”
Speaking to WTOP’s Mark Lewis and John Aaron, Williams said Jackson was born in D.C. but grew up in Miami. She has two daughters and her husband Patrick is a surgeon in the city. Her parents were both graduates of historically Black colleges and universities.
“Her mother was a school administrator. And her father was a lawyer for the school board. And she says, watching him was an early inspiration for her to seek a career in the law,” Williams said.
Williams said that there’s a question about whether Jackson’s track record is long enough to suggest ideology and what the president might be getting if she’s approved.
“When the Senate confirmed her for that job just eight months ago, she got the votes of three Senate Republicans, and that may have been a factor in the President’s consideration,” Williams noted.
“David Souter was on the appeals court for only five months before he was chosen for the Supreme Court. And whether she’ll get Republican support or not, we don’t know. I think it’s likely she’ll get some votes,” he said.
WTOP’s Valerie Bonk and Kristi King contributed to this report.