Since Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement, President Joe Biden stated that he was devoted to nominating a Black woman to the United States Supreme Court. On February 25, 2022, Biden finally picked his nominee—Kentaji Brown Jackson. After the lengthy process of confirmation hearings, on April 7, 2022, Judge Jackson officially became the first Black woman to be confirmed to the US Supreme Court. Jackson’s addition to the court has officially created a non-white male justice majority for the first time in U.S. history.
Jackson was born in Washington D.C., though she grew up in Miami, Florida. Ever since high school, Jackson had her eyes set on holding a judicial position. Her senior quote stated that she, “[wanted] to go into law and eventually have a judicial appointment.” Well, Jackson did just that, as she went on to attend Harvard University for both undergraduate and law school, earning a bachelor’s degree in government in 1992 and a J.D in 1996. Jackson balanced the rigorous education at Harvard by participating in improv comedy performances and taking classes in drama. All the while, she led social justice protests—most notably ones against a Harvard student who displayed a Confederate flag in dorm window. In between graduating from undergraduate school and going to law school, Jackson held a brief position as a staff reporter and researcher for Time magazine from 1992-1993. Then, during her time at Harvard’s law school, she served as an editor for the Harvard Law Review, one of the most prestigious university newspapers in the country.
After graduating from law school, Jackson served as a law clerk, first to Judge Patti B. Saris of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts from 1996-1997, then to Judge Bruce M. Selya of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit from 1997-1998. After spending a year in private practice, Jackson spent a year clerking for United States Supreme Court Justice Stephen Bryer—the very justice she has now replaced. Jackson went back into private practice for a couple of years, then decided to become a public defender, where she represented socioeconomically disadvantaged clients before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, arguing for their lengthy sentences to be shortened or erased. In fact, Jackson is the only Supreme Court justice to have assumed the role of a public defender.
In 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Jackson to vice chair of the United States Sentencing Commission. She worked there until 2014, during which she worked to make changes reducing the recommended sentencing time for crack cocaine offenses. Then, in 2012, Obama nominated Jackson again, but this time, to be a judge for the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. She was confirmed by the full Senate, and after being confirmed in 2013, Jackson worked tirelessly to serve justice in her courtroom through her rulings.
Though many have attempted to question or belittle Jackson’s level of qualification to serve on the Supreme Court, Jackson’s impressive education and career speaks for itself. It serves as a testament to her intelligence, extreme qualification, and dedication to improving the judicial system in the United States. Her appointment to the United States Supreme Court is both well deserved, and a monumental moment is US history.
Photo Source: The Sentonian/Kevin Lamarque-Pool/Getty Images
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