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Biden Names U.S. First Black Woman, Ketanji Brown Jackson, to Supreme Court

Biden names Ketanji Brown Jackson, DC appeals court judge, to Supreme Court

President Biden is nominating Ketanji Brown Jackson, a federal appeals court judge in Washington, D.C., to the Supreme Court, setting up the likely seating of the nation’s first Black woman justice, according to multiple reports.

For Jackson, her nomination culminates a meteoric rise through the federal judiciary following just eight months on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, a role she was chosen for after eight years as a federal district court judge in D.C.

Biden’s decision caps off a month of closely held deliberations at the White House over a replacement for Justice Stephen Breyer, who is due to retire at the conclusion of the Supreme Court’s current term this summer. 

Jackson, a former Breyer clerk, is expected to round out the court’s liberal wing, which also includes Sonia Sotomayor, 67, and Elena Kagan, 61. At 51, Jackson would also bring youth, diversity and likely a more liberal outlook than the 83-year-old Breyer, known for his judicial modesty and pragmatism.

Biden’s choice of Jackson delivers on his 2020 campaign vow to make history by nominating the first Black female Supreme Court justice. Other candidates he considered for the role included J. Michelle Childs, a U.S. district judge in South Carolina, and California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger. 

Jackson’s addition to the Supreme Court would not fundamentally shift its 6-3 conservative majority balance. But if she proves to be ideologically to the left of Breyer, it could reshape the three-member liberal minority and alter the court in more subtle ways.

Biden’s selection sets in motion what is likely to be a polarized Supreme Court confirmation process in the 50-50 Senate. 

During her confirmation hearings to the D.C. circuit last spring, Jackson faced a grilling from Senate Republicans, some of whom trained their fire on her decision in a case involving a congressional subpoena to compel the testimony of former Trump White House counsel Don McGahn.

In what was the most consequential opinion of her career up to that point, then-U.S. District Judge Jackson sided with the Democratic-led House committee pursuing McGahn, ruling in a blistering 120-page decision that former President Trump could not bar McGahn’s testimony, with an admonishment that “presidents are not kings.”

Since then, she joined a unanimous three-judge D.C. Circuit panel that rejected Trump’s bid to block his administration’s records from being handed to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 pro-Trump attack on the Capitol, a ruling the Supreme Court left intact.

Prior to becoming a judge, Jackson spent two years as a federal public defender in D.C.

Court watchers who previously spoke to The Hill about Jackson emphasized her reputation as a fair, balanced and serious judge who would not be swayed by a case’s political dimensions.

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