Ketanji Brown Jackson is an American attorney and jurist who has served as a federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit since 2021.
She is a current nominee for the Supreme Court, currently facing the Senate Judiciary Committee seeking confirmation.
Her history makes her different that those currently on the Supreme Court Bench who she hopes to join. Ketanji Brown Jackson spent time as a federal public defender, where she was unable to choose whom she did or did not represent. As a result of her public service she would become the only current justice who has spent a substantial amount of time defending poor people, she is known as someone who embraces fairness in the justice system and reducing mass incarceration. “The federal judiciary is now heavily weighted towards judges with backgrounds representing the rich and powerful.” says Irin Carmon.
Judge Jackson’s parents were educated in racially segregated schools. She sites the dramatic shift, in one generation, that allowed her to attend integrated schools offering her robust curriculum and opportunities.
Ketanji’s interest in studying law was inspired by her father who was her first professional model. Her dad switched from being a public school teacher to being a lawyer. While he was in law school, Ketanji would always admire him studying at home. This further fueled her passion to take after her father’s steps. She had the opportunity to be part of the speech and debate extracurricular activity while in high school. Her participation in this activity made her learn public speaking and confidence development which she eventually used in her successful career as a lawyer.
Her nomination is groundbreaking in that she would be the first Black women to serve as a justice and only the third Black person, after Thomas and Thurgood Marshal. More meaningful, however, may be her background. Coming from a family of law enforcement officers, Jackson also has an uncle in prison. She is a graduate of public schools and a Harvard graduate.
Some have equated her record as both a public defendant and as a Federal Judge as evidence that she has been soft on crime.
“Public defenders are not soft on crime —
they are hard on injustice,” Laura Coates,
a former prosecutor, wrote for CNN.
“In a country where race and bias are
far too frequently elevated above fairness,
public defenders are the welcome
foil to balance the system.”
During this Women’s History Month, celebrating women who provide us with a powerful example of resilience, strength and character rightfully includes recognition of the Women who bringing equal representation to the country’s highest court.
When the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg was asked “when will there be enough women on the court” she answered “When there are Nine.” With the confirmation of Judge Jackson, there will be four. The most women to sit on the court simultaneously in the history of the United States Supreme Court.
Her appointment and confirmation is historic because she is a woman, because she is a Black woman, because she has dedicated her career to judicial fairness.
“There are also women I have never met
but who are recorded in the pages of history
and whose lives and struggles inspire
me and thousands of other working women
to keep putting one foot in front
of another every day.” Ketanji Brown Jackson
March 23, 2022