On Friday, President Joe Biden is expected to announce the nomination of federal appeals court judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to replace the retiring Justice Stephen Breyer on the U.S. Supreme Court. Jackson would be the first-ever justice with experience as a federal public defender.
Per CNN’s Ariane de Vogue and Jake Tapper, Biden offered the position to Jackson by phone Thursday evening, which she accepted.
Jackson, confirmed last year to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, first took the bench in 2013, when President Barack Obama nominated her to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. If confirmed, she would be the first justice with any substantive criminal defense experience since Justice Thurgood Marshall, who retired in 1991. Seven of her nine would-be colleagues, by contrast, have some kind of prosecutorial experience.
“President Biden sought a candidate with exceptional credentials, unimpeachable character, and unwavering dedication to the rule of law,” the White House said in a statement. “Judge Jackson is one of our nation’s brightest legal minds and has an unusual breadth of experience in our legal system, giving her the perspective to be an exceptional Justice.”
Jackson has received some support from prominent Republican politicians throughout her career. Then-Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan introduced her at her 2013 confirmation hearing to the D.C. district court, acknowledging that although their politics differ, his “praise for Ketanji’s intellect, for her character, for her integrity, is unequivocal.” (The two might also run into one another at family reunions, as Jackson’s husband’s brother is married to Ryan’s wife’s sister.)
Three Republican senators—South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, Maine Senator Susan Collins, and Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski—voted to confirm Jackson to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals last year, perhaps further boosting her chances at winning bipartisan support in a confirmation vote. In 2013, she won even more Republican support when the Senate confirmed her to the D.C. District Court by voice vote.
Soon after Breyer announced his retirement, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stated that he expected the Senate would move with “all deliberate speed” to confirm Biden’s nominee, and cited the 30-day confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett in 20201 as a precedent he’d like to follow. Later, Schumer reiterated that the Senate “wants to move quickly” and “get this done as soon as possible.”
Soon after Breyer announced his retirement, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stated that he expected the Senate would move with “all deliberate speed” to confirm Biden’s nominee, and cited the 30-day confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett in 20201 as a precedent he’d like to follow.
On Friday, Schumer called Jackson “a true public servant and model jurist,” and pledged a “fair, timely, and expeditious process—fair to the nominee, to the Senate, and to the American public.” On February 1, Biden reportedly told Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin that he would like confirmation hearings to begin around 40 days after the nomination’s announcement. That would yield a confirmation hearing in early April.
In selecting Jackson, Biden followed through on his campaign promise to nominate the first Black woman justice to the Supreme Court. He reiterated this pledge in his remarks at Breyer’s retirement announcement in January, calling it “long overdue.”
Jackson graduated from Harvard College in 1992 and Harvard Law School in 1996, and clerked on the Supreme Court for Breyer, whom she would replace. After short stints in private practice, she spent two years as an Assistant Federal Public Defender in Washington, D.C., and then nearly five years as Vice Chair of the U.S Sentencing Commission before she was nominated to the D.C. District Court.