President Joe Biden selected federal appellate judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to become the first Black woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Biden introduced Jack son during a White House ceremony on Friday (February 25). Her nomination setts the stage for a confirmation battle in the closely divided Senate.
Biden picked Jackson, 51, for a lifetime job on the nation’s top judicial body to succeed retiring liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, fulfilling a 2020 campaign promise to make the historic appointment. Of the 115 people who have ever served on the Supreme Court, all but three have been white, only two have been Black and both of those were men.
If confirmed by the Senate, Jackson would become the sixth woman ever to serve on the court, which currently has three female justices. She would join the liberal bloc on an increasingly assertive court that has a 6-3 conservative majority including three justices appointed by Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump.
Democratic senators welcomed Jackson’s nomination and pledged to move forward quickly with the confirmation process while they control the chamber. Democrats have said they plan to move the nomination on a timetable similar to the single month that Republicans used for Trump’s third appointee Justice Amy Coney Barrett in 2020.
The Senate voted 53-44 last year to confirm Jackson after Biden nominated her to the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. All but three Republicans voted against her.
At Jackson’s confirmation hearing last year, Republicans questioned her on whether race plays a role in her approach to deciding cases. She said it did not. The Senate previously confirmed her as a federal district judge, a job she held for eight years.
Jackson, who was raised in Miami and attended Harvard Law School, has a varied legal resume including earlier in her career representing criminal defendants who could not afford a lawyer. She was part of a three-judge panel that ruled in December against Republican former President Trump’s bid to prevent White House records from being handed over to a congressional panel investigating last year’s Capitol attack.
While Jackson would not change the court’s ideological balance – she would be replacing a fellow liberal – her addition enables Biden to refresh its liberal wing with a much younger jurist who could serve for decades, just as Trump’s three relatively young appointees are in a position to do.
The nomination gives Biden a chance to shore up support among women, minorities and liberals ahead of the midterm elections. Biden’s strength among suburban women, seen as a key reason for his victory over Trump, has eroded since taking office last year, worrying his political aides.