Meet Ketanji Brown Jackson for Women's History Month


I love March! We have Women's History Month, Pi Day, National Quilting Day and National Craft Month!! All my favorite things!! I always love to learn about new women who made a difference in our world. Today I thought I would learn about a woman who is in the current news, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. 

President Biden nominated Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court

First let's talk about why Ketanji Brown Jackson is in the news. President Joe Biden nominated her to be a United States Supreme Court Justice to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer. This makes her the first Black woman to ever be nominated to the Supreme Court and the third Black person to be nominated. Justice Thurgood Marshall was appointed to the US Supreme Court by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967. He retired in 1991. In 1991 President George H.W. Bush appointed Justice Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. He still is serving on the Court. The only other person of color ever on the Supreme Court is Justice Sonia Sotomayor. She is the one and only Latinx justice on the Supreme Court ever! Needless to say, our Supreme Court needs to represent the actual population of the United States and this nomination may get us one step closer. 

Ketanji Onyika Brown was born on September 14, 1970, in Washington, DC to Johnny and Ellery Brown. Her aunt was in the Peace Corps at the time in Africa and her parents wanted a cultural name for their daughter. They asked her aunt of a list of African girl names and liked Ketanji Onyika, which they were told translates to "lovely one." Both of her parents attended segregated schools and went to traditionally Black colleges. She was raised in Miami, Florida. When she was in preschool Johnny Brown attended law school. Ketanji remembers sitting next to her father at the kitchen table as he did his law school homework, and she did her "preschool homework", which was coloring in coloring books. She was seen as very intelligent and was a star in speech and debate. She was elected mayor of Palmetto Junior High School and president of the study body at Miami Palmetto Senior High School. In high school she remembers telling her guidance counselor that she wanted to attend Harvard University. The guidance counselor suggested she not set her sights so high. However, Ketanji did attend Harvard. In 1992 she graduated from Harvard magna cum laude. Then in 1996 she graduated from Harvard Law School cum laude and was the supervising editor of the Harvard Law Review. In 1996 she married Patrick Jackson who is a surgeon. They reside in Washington, DC and have two daughters, Talia and Leila. Her family also has law and service history. Her brother served in the US Army in Iraq and Egypt and then returned home and became a police officer in Baltimore. Two of her uncles were police officers in Miami as well. Ketanji has stated that she is fairly certain both sides of her family were slaves. She finds it a sign of the beauty and majesty of our country that she is now being considered to be a justice on the Supreme Court with such a background. 

Ketanji Brown Jackson 2020
Ketanji Brown Jackson Source: File:020820 Overseers 0040.jpg: Rose Lincoln, Harvard Universityderivative work: Innisfree987, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

After graduating she served as a clerk to US District Judge Patti Saris of Massachusetts, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton. Then she became a clerk for Judge Bruce Selya, who was appointed to the US Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit by President Ronald Reagan. After both of these clerkships she became an associate at Miller Cassidy Larroca & Lewin in Washington DC. She left this position after a year to be a clerk for Justice Stephen Breyer of the Supreme Court. This gave her first-hand knowledge of the workings of the Supreme Court which will be handy if she does get appointed. 

After her Supreme Court clerkship, she became an associate for Goodwin Proctor in Boston. In 2002, she left Goodwin Proctor for a firm then named the Feinberg Group. She spent a year there and then became a staffer at the U.S. Sentencing Commission. It is an independent federal agency that was created by Congress in response to the widespread disparity in federal sentencing. She was there for two years. Then she became an assistant federal defender in Washington DC. If she is approved, she will become the first former federal defender to serve as a justice on the Supreme Court. The last justice to serve on the Supreme Court with significant experience representing defenders was Justice Thurgood Marshall.  

In 2007 she went to work in the Washington DC office of Morrison & Foerester. In 2009 President Barrack Obama nominated her as vice chair of the Sentencing Commission. She was confirmed by the Senate in 2010. In September 2012 President Obama nominated her to serve as a US District judge in Washington DC. Congress voted her to serve in 2013. In 2021 she was President Joe Biden's first judicial nomination. He nominated her to serve to the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. Congress confirmed her with bipartisan support. She is also a member of the Judicial Conference Committee on Defender Services, Board of Overseers of Harvard University, and the Council of American Law Institute. She also serves on the board of Georgetown Day School and the United States Supreme Court Fellows Commission.

In 2016, her daughter, Leila, wrote to President Obama and asked him to put her mother on the Supreme Court following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Now we wait as Congress will begin the proceedings of approving her and perhaps making more history.