Ketanji Brown Jackson, whois set to replace Stephen Breyer on the U.S. Supreme Court, currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and was on President Barack Obama’s shortlist for the nation’s highest court in 2016. If confirmed, Jackson would become the third Black justice and the sixth woman in Supreme Court history. She would be the first Black woman to fill the seat on the high court.
Jackson, 51, has already been vetted by the Senate. She was confirmed to her current position by a 53-47 vote in June 2020, with three Republicans – Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – voting with all 50 Democrats.
Here are a few things you should know about Jackson:
Jackson was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in suburban Miami-Dade County Florida. Reportedly, her father, Johnny Brown, was the attorney for the Miami-Dade County School board, while her mother, Ellory Brown, was principal at New World School of the Arts, a magnet high school and college that specializes in dual enrollment programs, in Miami from 1993 to 2007.
High School Standout
Jackson attended Miami Palmetto Senior High School, where she was a speech and debate champion. As a high school senior in 1988 she won the national oratory title at the National Catholic Forensic League Championship in New Orleans, the second-largest high school debate tournament in the country, the Miami Hearld reported in June 1988. Brown and her teammates also won the overall team title at the tournament.
“She was a star in the making,” Nathaniel Persily, a law professor at Stanford University and Jackson’s former high school classmate and debate teammate, told the Hearld.
As a senior, Jackson also received an honorable mention in the drama category of the Miami Herald’s Silver Knight awards.
Jackson’s high school alma mater also has a few famous alums, including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (Class of 1982) and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murphy (Class of 1994), according to the newspaper.
Jackson graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School and clerked for Breyer during the 1999-2000 Supreme Court term. She also edited the Harvard Law Review, according to The Atlantic.
She has also served from 2005-07 as an assistant federal public defender in the District of Columbia where she represented people accused of an array of crimes who could not afford an attorney. Later, as an Obama appointee on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, she helped rewrite guidelines to reduce recommended penalties for drug-related offenses. Obama nominated her in 2012 to serve as a district court judge in D.C., where she sentenced more than 100 people to prison.
Jackson’s caseload included the 2019 case when she ruled that Donald McGahn, the former White House counsel to President Donald Trump, had to obey a congressional subpoena compelling him to testify over the former president’s efforts to obstruct the Russia investigation.
“The primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that Presidents are not kings,” Jackson wrote. “This means that they do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control. Rather, in this land of liberty, it is indisputable that current and former employees of the White House work for the people of the United States, and that they take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Jackson has two daughters and is related by marriage to former House Speaker Paul Ryan. Her husband, Patrick Jackson, is a surgeon and the twin brother of Ryan’s brother-in-law, according to the newspaper. Ryan testified on Ketanji Jackson Brown’s behalf at her 2012 confirmation hearing, calling her “clearly qualified” and “an amazing person.”
“Our politics may differ, but my praise for Ketanji’s intellect, for her character, for her integrity, it is unequivocal,” Ryan said at time. “She is an amazing person, and I favorably recommend your consideration.”