Who is Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson?

About Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson

Judge Jackson was born in Washington, DC and grew up in Miami, Florida. Her parents attended segregated primary schools, then attended historically black colleges and universities. Both started their careers as public school teachers and became leaders and administrators in the Miami-Dade Public School System. When Judge Jackson was in preschool, her father attended law school. In a 2017 lecture, Judge Jackson traced her love of the law back to sitting next to her father in their apartment as he tackled his law school homework—reading cases and preparing for Socratic questioning—while she undertook her preschool homework—coloring books.

Judge Jackson stood out as a high achiever throughout her childhood. She was a speech and debate star who was elected “mayor” of Palmetto Junior High and student body president of Miami Palmetto Senior High School. But like many Black women, Judge Jackson still faced naysayers. When Judge Jackson told her high school guidance counselor she wanted to attend Harvard, the guidance counselor warned that Judge Jackson should not set her “sights so high.”

That did not stop Judge Jackson. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University, then attended Harvard Law School, where she graduated cum laude and was an editor of the Harvard Law Review.

Judge Jackson lives with her husband, Patrick, and their two daughters, in Washington, DC.

Judge Jackson was one of President Biden’s first judicial nominees. She was confirmed with bipartisan support to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 2021.

President Obama nominated Judge Jackson to be a district court judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in 2012. She was confirmed with bipartisan support in 2013.

President Obama nominated Judge Jackson to serve as the Vice Chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission in 2009, and she was confirmed with bipartisan support in 2010. Prior to serving as a judge, Judge Jackson followed in the footsteps of her mentor Justice Breyer by working on the U.S. Sentencing Commission. The Commission, which President Biden fought to create as a member of the U.S. Senate, is bipartisan by design. Her work there focused on reducing unwarranted sentencing disparities and ensuring that federal sentences were just and proportionate.

Judge Jackson represented defendants who did not have the means to pay for a lawyer. She would be the first former federal public defender to serve on the Supreme Court.

Judge Jackson served as Justice Breyer’s law clerk, and learned up close how important it is for a Supreme Court Justice to build consensus and speak to a mainstream understanding of the Constitution.

Because of her diverse and broad public service, Judge Jackson has a unique appreciation of how critical it is for the justice system to be fair and impartial. With multiple law enforcement officials in her family, she also has a personal understanding of the stakes of the legal system. After serving in the U.S. Army and being deployed to Iraq and Egypt, Jackson’s brother served as a police officer in Baltimore and two of her uncles were police officers in Miami.

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