Washington D.C.- The Unites States Senate voted today to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as 116th Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Jackson is confirmed by the evenly divided Senate, she is the first Black woman ever to serve on the nation's highest court, as well as the third Black person and the sixth woman. Jackson, 51, has been viewed for months as a top contender and fits the bill that Biden and left-leaning activists have sought in the aftermath of Republicans’ successful attempt to pull the judiciary to the right under former President Donald Trump. Her name has long been floated as a potential Supreme Court justice, particularly after she was tapped to fill the seat left by now-Attorney General Merrick Garland on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, generally considered the second-most important court in the U.S. She was nominated to that position by Biden last year and was confirmed in the role on June 14, 2021 by a vote of 53 to 44. Jackson left law firm life behind in 2010 to become a commissioner on the US Sentencing Commission, an independent agency that establishes sentencing policies and practices for the federal courts. She has said she learned to knit during her Senate confirmation process to channel her nervous energy. Rachel Barkow, now a professor of law at New York University, served with Jackson on the bipartisan commission and noted pointedly how well the members worked together despite ideological differences. Another commissioner at the time was William H. Pryor Jr., a conservative judge who sits on the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals. Barkow said Jackson was an "upbeat presence" who always does "what she is supposed to do, when she says she is going to do it." At the time, federal prisons were over capacity, and there was widespread bipartisan acknowledgement that federal drug sentences were too long. The seven-member body unanimously decided to lower federal drug sentences. They made the reductions retroactive, Barkow said, which meant more than 30,000 federal prisoners got lower sentences. President Barack Obama would go on to nominate Jackson to the US District Court for the District of Columbia, which she joined in 2013. For that confirmation hearing, she was introduced by a well-known Republican, Wisconsin's Paul Ryan, who would go on to become speaker of the House and who happened to be related to her by marriage. (Jackson's husband's twin brother is married to the sister of Ryan's wife.) "I know she is clearly qualified," Ryan said. "But it bears repeating just how qualified she is." "Our politics may differ, but my praise for Ketanji's intellect, for her character, for her integrity, is unequivocal," he added. At each of her judicial confirmation hearings, her husband, Patrick Jackson, a DC-based surgeon, has been pictured sitting behind her. The couple share two daughters, Talia and Leila. Her mother, a former public school science teacher and principal of a public magnet school in South Florida, and her father, a public high school teacher who was later chief counsel to the Miami-Dade County school board, also have been in attendance. One thing she did not discuss was the life sentence her uncle, Thomas Brown, Jr., received after a
drug offense. In 2008, when she was in private practice and well before she became a judge, Jackson referred her uncle's file to WilmerHale, a law firm that handles numerous clemency petitions, according to a spokesperson for the firm. The firm submitted the petition on Brown's behalf on October 7, 2014, and Obama commuted his sentence on November 22, 2016. According to the firm, Jackson had "no further involvement in the matter" after making the referral. Jackson's chambers said she would decline comment on the issue. Jackson was born Ketanji Onyika Brown in Washington, D.C. in 1970 She married surgeon Patrick Jackson in 1996. The couple have two daughters — Talia, 21, and Leila, 17. Jackson's parents moved to south Florida when she was child and she graduated from Miami Palmetto Senior High School. She studied government at Harvard University, graduating in 1992. Jackson spent a year as a reporter at Time magazine before returning to Harvard, receiving her law degree from Harvard Law School in 1996. Patrick Jackson is also a graduate of Harvard and works as a general surgeon at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. Jackson began her legal career with three clerkships, perhaps appropriately spending a period clerking for Justice Breyer from 1999 to 2000 and was in private practice in Boston, Massachusetts from 2000 to 2002. She was assistant special counsel at U.S. Sentencing Commission from 2003 to 2005. Jackson then served as an assistant public defender in Washington, D.C. from 2005 to 2007. During that time, she was involved in cases related to detentions at Guantánamo Bay and was assigned to represent detainee Khi Ali Gul. In private practice in D.C. from 2007 to 2010, Jackson then served as vice chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission. She was nominated to the commission by then President Barack Obama in 2009, winning Senate confirmation in 2010 and serving in that role until 2014. Perhaps Jackson's best known ruling from the bench was against former President Trump. While a district judge in 2019, Jackson ruled that former White House counsel Don McGahn had to testify before Congress, famously writing that "presidents are not kings." The Senate currently consists of 50 Republicans, 48 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the Democrats. Though the numbers are razor thin, Democrats should have the necessary votes to confirm Jackson to the Court.