Politics

Biden nominates Ketanji Brown Jackson to be next Supreme Court justice

Key Points
  • President Joe Biden announced he is nominating federal Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.
  • Biden has vowed to pick a Black woman to succeed liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, who plans to retire in the summer at the end of the court's current term.
  • Jackson, currently on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, "is one of our nation's brightest legal minds and will be an exceptional Justice," Biden said in a tweet.
VIDEO12:2412:24
President Biden introduces his Supreme Court choice, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson

President Joe Biden on Friday formally nominated federal Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.

Jackson, currently on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, brings "extraordinary qualifications, deep experience and intellect and a rigorous judicial record to the court," Biden said at the White House.

"Judge Jackson deserves to be confirmed as a next justice Supreme Court," Biden said.

He had vowed to pick a Black woman to succeed liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, who plans to retire in the summer at the end of the court's current term. Biden made that promise years earlier as a presidential candidate.

"For too long, our government, our courts, haven't looked like America. I believe it is time that we have a court that reflects the full talents and greatness of our nation," Biden said.

Brown, who spoke after Biden, said: "If I'm fortunate enough to be confirmed as the next associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, I can only hope that my life and career, my love of this country and the Constitution, and my commitment to upholding the rule of law and the sacred principles upon which this great nation was founded, will inspire future generations of Americans."

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Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Biden's Supreme Court nominee, addresses her selection

Biden made the decision on whom to nominate by Thursday night, NBC News had reported.

If successful, Biden's nomination will at least temporarily avoid any further erosion of the high court's already-diminished liberal flank, who are outnumbered 6-3 by conservatives.

Just five women — Sandra Day O'Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Amy Coney Barrett — have served on the Supreme Court. Only two Black men, Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas, have ever been appointed to the bench. No Black women have previously sat on the high court.

Democratic leaders vowed to swiftly advance Jackson's nomination.

"Judge Jackson will receive a prompt hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee in the coming weeks. After the Judiciary Committee finishes their work I will ask the Senate to move immediately to confirm her to the Supreme Court," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement.

Ketanji Brown Jackson, nominated to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit, is sworn in to testify before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on pending judicial nominations on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 28, 2021.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

Biden was apparently still deliberating his options on Thursday: White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that afternoon that Biden had still not reached a "final final" decision and that "no job offer has been made."

Psaki assured that "we are still on track to make an announcement before the end of the month," as Biden had promised, while noting "we have to do a lot of things around here at the same time."

The president has been deeply engaged in managing the crisis over Russia's military invasion of Ukraine, which began earlier this week amid an international outcry.

The 51-year-old Jackson — young by the court's modern standards — was confirmed last year to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in a 53-44 vote. All 50 Democrats supported Brown's nomination, along with Republicans Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Alaska's Lisa Murkowski.

Jackson previously clerked for Breyer, and her judicial record has garnered plaudits from progressives.

In a biography page posted Friday morning, the White House said Jackson has "the perspective to be an exceptional Justice." The bio said that despite her achievements from a young age, "like many Black women, Judge Jackson still faced naysayers."

"When Judge Jackson told her high school guidance counselor she wanted to attend Harvard, the guidance counselor warned that Judge Jackson should not set her 'sights so high,'" the White House said. Jackson went on to graduate with distinction from Harvard University and Harvard Law School, where she was an editor of the Harvard Law Review.

"Because of her diverse and broad public service, Judge Jackson has a unique appreciation of how critical it is for the justice system to be fair and impartial," the White House said.

Multiple outlets reported that Biden was also considering South Carolina federal Judge J. Michelle Childs and California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger up until the final days of the selection process.

Childs had been the favorite of two major South Carolina politicians: high-ranking Democratic Rep. James Clyburn, a key backer of Biden's 2020 presidential campaign, as well as Graham.

In a statement, Graham said Jackson's nomination "means the radical Left has won President Biden over yet again," adding, "The attacks by the Left on Judge Childs from South Carolina apparently worked."

"I expect a respectful but interesting hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee," added Graham, a member of that panel.

Due to Republicans tossing the 60-vote filibuster rule for Supreme Court nominees during the Trump administration, the 50-50 split in the Senate gives Democrats enough power to confirm Biden's pick without any GOP votes. Vice President Kamala Harris would be the tiebreaking vote, if required.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, seen as a moderate, called Jackson "an experienced federal judge with impressive academic and legal credentials" in a statement.

"I will conduct a thorough vetting of Judge Jackson's nomination and look forward to her public hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee and to meeting with her in my office," Collins said.

Democrats' narrow Senate majority was briefly clouded in early February by the news that Sen. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., had been hospitalized after suffering a stroke.

But within two weeks, Lujan released a video statement assuring that he would make a full recovery and return to the Senate to consider, and vote on, Biden's nominee.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.