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Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson Makes History As the First Black Woman to Serve on the United States Supreme Court

In 232 years and 115 prior appointments, not one Black woman has been selected to serve on the United States Supreme Court. Until now. On April 7, 2022, the U.S. Senate confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as the nation’s next Supreme Court justice. Justice Jackson will be not only the first Black woman to sit on the Supreme Court, but also the first former public defender.

Justice Jackson hails to the highest court with stellar credentials and a career dedicated to public service. After graduating magna cum laude from Harvard University, she attended Harvard Law School, where she became editor of the Harvard Law Review and graduated cum laude. Jackson then began clerking for Justice Stephen Breyer on the Supreme Court. A fitting start to her legal career, as she will now replace Justice Breyer when he formally retires at the beginning of the summer.

Upon conclusion of her Supreme Court clerkship, Jackson became a public defender and represented numerous indigent criminal defendants. Jackson then served as Vice Chair of the United States Sentencing Commission, where she focused on reducing sentencing disparities. In 2012, President Obama nominated Jackson to be a federal trial court judge for the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, and in 2013 she was confirmed. Jackson was a federal trial court judge for eight years before she was elevated to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2021.

Having authored over 500 opinions on cases ranging from separation of powers to the reach of the Fourth Amendment and collective bargaining rights, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson will bring a diverse perspective to the Supreme Court bench for many reasons. Having been raised in Miami, Florida by school teacher parents who attended segregated schools themselves, Justice Jackson provides critical representation that the Court has never seen before. Legal scholars predict that her past experiences in confronting racism combined with years in public service will significantly impact how the Supreme Court views cases during a time when the role of the legal system in addressing racial injustice has never been more important.

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