By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor
For the first time in American history, a Black woman has been nominated to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.
By selecting Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on Feb. 25, President Joe Biden completed his pledge to select a Black woman for the court for the first time in history.
A Black woman has never served on the U.S. Supreme Court since it was created in 1789 — over 232 years ago. Since then, only two other Black persons have served on the Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall, who was appointed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967, and Clarence Thomas, who was appointed by President George H. W. Bush in 1991 amid significant controversy.
In over two centuries, 114 justices have served on the Supreme Court and 108 of them have been white men.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51, currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. That federal court is seen as a feeder for nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Judge Jackson was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Miami, Florida. She attended Harvard University for college and law school and was the editor of the Harvard Law Review. She began her legal career as a clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer.
In what may have been a clue that Judge Jackson would be nominated, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia broke with tradition on Feb. 24 and issued an opinion on a Thursday. That scheduling change was noted by the media since the court typically only issues opinions on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Only one other woman of color has served on the Supreme Court, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor of New York, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009. Three other women have served on the Supreme Court: Sandra Day O’Connor, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981; Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993; Associate Justice Elena Kagan, who was appointed by President Obama in 2010; and Associate Justice Amy Barrett who was appointed by President Donald Trump in 2020.
In 1958, just 3 percent of law school students were women. In 2020, women made up 54 percent of law students in the United States.
The 51-year-old District native, who shares two children with her husband Patrick Jackson, worked in civil and criminal appellate litigation in both state and federal courts for Morrison & Foerster LLP.
Judge Brown Jackson also served as an assistant federal public defender in the appeals division of the Office of the Public Defender in D.C. She will be the first public defender to serve on the Supreme Court. She will also be the first defense attorney since Thurgood Marshall to serve on the high court.
Though the selection represents a historic moment in American history, the court will maintain its 6-3 conservative edge as it tackles high-profile and controversial cases, including gun rights, religious liberty, and abortion.
“Judge Katanji Brown Jackson will fight for African Americans and other communities of color. We haven’t had this on the Supreme Court since Justice Thurgood Marshall,” said National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr.
With a 50-50 Senate, Democrats do not need Republican help to confirm Judge Jackson. Democrats can accomplish the historic confirmation with their 50 votes and Vice President Harris breaking a deadlock.
Three Republican senators – Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Susan Collins of Maine – supported Judge Jackson when the jurist earned confirmation to the appellate court.