Six days after President Biden took office, White House counsel Dana Remus phoned Ketanji Brown Jackson to see if the judge was interested in a new job: replacing Merrick Garland in a full federal appeals court. power or not.
The new administration is poised to prioritize judicial vacancies and plans to push through candidate lists that will send a message about how the President views the courts. Credentials of excellence are essential, but Biden also wants candidates who bring a new demographic and professional diversity to white male-dominated nationwide benches. For example, he looked for candidates who had worked as public defenders and civil rights attorneys.
Jackson – then serving in a federal trial court in Washington, DC – fit the bill perfectly. She has a glittering resume that includes a Harvard degree and a position as federal secretary, but her life experience is rooted in public service.
Biden has pledged to make history by taking a black woman to the Supreme Court. Such a historic move would highlight a group of potential female nominees who have overcome barriers to reaching the pinnacle of the legal profession. Jackson, who is African-American and a former Breyer secretary, would likely be the leading candidate for that seat. A post on the appellate court will help her add season and raise her profile.
Asked about race during her confirmation hearing last year for that post in appeals court, Jackson responded cautiously. She said she doesn’t think race plays a role in the kind of judge she has been or will be, but she thinks her professional background, particularly as a trial court judge, will bring value.
“I have experienced life in a way that is perhaps different from some of my peers because of who I am, and that can be valuable,” she said. “I hope it will be worth it if I am confirmed to the circuit court.” Last June, the Senate Jackson confirmed that post by vote 53-44.
Now, Jackson, 51, will replace Breyer on the Supreme Court, who retired today at noon ET.
“The bench of black women attorneys with outstanding credentials is incredibly poignant,” said Elizabeth Wydra, president of the Liberal Constitutional Accountability Center. However, she noted, Jackson didn’t just carry an exceptional criminal record.
She has “an understanding of how the law affects people based on both her professional and life experiences, and a strong commitment to equal justice,” Wydra said.
She has served as an assistant federal public defender, commissioner of the United States Sentencing Commission, a private practice attorney, and in two prestigious federal courts.
She is following in the footsteps of the likes of Chief Justice John Roberts and Judges Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, who have taken the seats of the judges they have served.
Jackson clerked for Breyer for the 1999 term after serving as secretary in 1997-1998 for Judge Bruce M. Selya, a federal judge in Massachusetts.
At a 2017 event sponsored by the liberal American Constitutional Association, she called working for Breyer a lifetime opportunity “to testify to the work of his brilliant legal mind.” She also joked about how justice would often cycle to work and would appear in his majestic room in “full bicycle attire”.
Jackson often talks about her areas of expertise in law, when she speaks to audiences, but she also talks about diversity and work-life balance.
In a 2017 speech at the University of Georgia Law School, she reflected on her journey as a mother and a judge, highlighting how difficult it is for mothers to serve in large law firms – which she says she has done sometimes to help. her family.
She notes that the work hours are long and there is little control over the schedule, which is “often at odds with the needs of your child and your family.” She also highlights the pitfalls of starting a career in law and points to recent studies showing that lawyers of color – both men and women – make up only 8% of law firm’s equity partners. nationwide.
Read about her profile here.