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Ex-Public Defender Ketanji Brown Jackson Chosen For Supreme Court

Updated: Feb 26, 2022

Image of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Wikicago, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

President Biden chose Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer on the U.S. Supreme Court, Axios reports. Jackson would be the first Black female justice in the court's history, and the first justice since Thurgood Marshall with significant experience representing criminal defendants. Jackson has the resume recently expected from Supreme Court justices: Harvard Law School, a Supreme Court clerkship, time at prestigious corporate law firms, and a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. She served for two years as a federal public defender, and she was a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission when that panel significantly rolled back federal sentencing guidelines for many drug offenses.

A Justice Jackson would likely be in the minority on many criminal law issues on a conservative court. She told the Senate Judiciary Committee last year that her experience in criminal law was beneficial in the courtroom, because she learned to take “extra care” to communicate with defendants, Roll Call reports. As an appellate public defender, she found that most of her clients didn’t understand what had happened to them in their conviction. She makes sure to explain to defendants why they need to face consequences for their decision to engage in criminal behavior. The Senate confirmed her to the D.C. Circuit last year, by a 53-44 vote. At the outset, Jackson's confirmation prospects seem good, but Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WVA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) favored another candidate, Judge J. Michelle Childs of South Carolina.


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