Ketanji Brown Jackson could be the first Black woman to sit on the Supreme Court. Augusta University experts can answer your questionsFebruary 28, 20223 min read
It’s official — President Biden has selected Ketanji Brown Jackson as his nominee to the Supreme Court.
If confirmed, she will the first Black woman to sit on the highest court in the nation.
This is a momentous occasion for American history and reporters are clamoring to learn more. Our experts are ready with answers to help with your stories.
Dr. Martha Ginn, professor of political science at Augusta University, is an expert on the judicial process, constitutional law and the U.S. Supreme Court. She discussed Jackson's credentials and the significance of her nomination.
What is Ketanji Brown Jackson’s background and what credentials would bring to the Supreme Court? Why is she President Biden's top choice?
President Biden made a campaign promise to nominate a Black woman to the SCOTUS if he had a vacancy to fill. While he had several strong contenders, Judge Brown Jackson is an obvious choice for many reasons.
Like all current Justices, excluding Justice Barrett, Judge Brown Jackson has an Ivy League education. She has also clerked at the Supreme Court for Justice Breyer (whom she would replace).
Interestingly, Justice Kavanaugh clerked for the Justice he replaced (Justice Kennedy) as well.
Background and experience: Judge Brown Jackson was a federal district court judge for eight years (appointed by President Obama) and was just confirmed to the DC Court of Appeals last summer. The DC circuit court is seen as a training ground of sorts for Supreme Court Justices, as many nominees serve there first.
What makes Judge Brown Jackson different is her experience as a public defender and then vice chairman of the sentencing commission. Bringing that experience to the Court will provide a much needed perspective on the rights of the accused. The Court recently heard a case regarding implementing the First Steps Act retroactively and it was apparent in the oral argument that some Justices did not appreciate the realities and complexities of sentencing in our criminal justice system. Judge Brown Jackson’s background will help fill that void.
What does her appointment signify, seeing as she would be the first Black woman (but only third Black justice) in the history of the Supreme Court, as well as the first former public defender?
Having four women on the Court at the same time will be important. More women than men attend law school now but the higher ranks of the profession are still male dominated, so having near parity in the nation’s highest Court is meaningful. Her race is also significant, since she will be only the third Black member of the Court and this would be the first time we have two Black members serving together.
It’s likely she and Justice Thomas will be very different ideologically but regardless, demographic representation matters. More than ever the Supreme Court is deciding very controversial matters that impact everyone. Having a Court that represents all voices is significant in maintaining its legitimacy and making sure opposing viewpoints are considered in decision-making.
With everything going on currently the nation and world, when do you project a vote will happen, and do you see it going through?
Even with all that is going on in the world right now, this will be a top priority to the Democratic Party, particularly with President Biden’s low polling numbers and the upcoming midterm elections.
With the slimmest of voting margins possible, the sooner the vote occurs, the better for the Democrats. The Republicans set the precedent with the Barrett nomination that the process can be done in weeks rather than the months taken in previous nominations. I anticipate the Democrats will follow that expedited model. It will be interesting to see if the three Republican senators who voted for her Court of Appeals appointment less than a year ago will oppose her nomination here.
Justice Breyer conditioned his retirement on the successful appointment of his replacement. He intends to retire at the end of this year’s term (likely early July), so I would anticipate her confirmation vote by then at the latest.
If you are a journalist covering this story, that’s where our experts on this topic can help.
Dr. Martha Ginn, professor of political science at Augusta University, is an expert on the judicial process, constitutional law and the U.S. Supreme Court. Ginn is available to speak with media about this topic — simply click on her icon to arrange an interview today.
Martha Ginn Professor
Dr. Martha Ginn is a political expert on the judicial process, constitutional law and the U.S. Supreme Court.